California Energy Commission Adds $2 Million in EV Rebates, For Four-Passenger Cars Only

By · January 11, 2011

In a workshop earlier today, the California Air Resources Board publicly stated that the California Energy Commission will direct $2 million into the 2011 budget for clean vehicle rebates. “However it is important to note that the additional $2 million in funding will be reserved for rebates of vehicles capable of carrying four passengers and highway driving,” wrote David Almeida in an email to “So it looks like the Tesla Roadster, neighborhood electric vehicles and zero emission motorcycles are ineligible for this extra funding.”

Location of first Nissan LEAF owners

Map of location of first 33 Nissan LEAF owners to register for California's clean vehicle rebates.

David recently took over from Mike Ferry as the manager of California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, administered by the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego. Mike continues his other duties as manager of the Center's transportation programs.

The ability for California to deliver on $5,000 rebates for pure EVs, and $3,000 for plug-in hybrids, depends on dwindling dollars in the fund—which are very likely to continue until 2015 (although the amounts, which come from DMV fees and smog abatements, are not absolutely guaranteed). So, where do things stand? David informs us that $1.4 million in vehicle rebates were distributed in 2010, for 213 vehicles in these categories:

  • 108 Zero Emission Vehicles (incl. LEAFs, Tesla Roadsters, and a handful of Honda Clarity fuel cell cars)
  • 38 Commercial Zero Emission Vehicles (from Smith, Navistar, and EVI)
  • 30 Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
  • 37 Zero Emission Motorcycles

Add up the $2.3 million left from 2010, the $5 million coming in second year funding, plus the Energy Commission’s $2 million contribution to produce $9.3 million in 2011 funding. The $2 million from Energy Commission provide enough money for 400 more buyers of four-passenger zero-emission vehicles to receive refunds. The other funds mean that more than 1,000 of the first EV buyers definitely will get a check in a matter of weeks after buying. (Keep in mind that the commercial vehicles qualify for up to $20,000. Staples recently put 30 Smith electric trucks into service.)

Most of this money is expected to go to the first buyers of the Nissan LEAF. David corrected a misconception that consumers need to buy, rather than lease, to receive the $5,000 rebate. The rebate is available to those who buy OR lease a zero-emission vehicle.

David also let us know that 33 applications from buyers of the Nissan LEAF have already been received—some of which have been processed and checks mailed. It’s still early to draw in major long-term conclusions about where LEAF buyers live, but according to David’s map (see picture), the Los Angeles and San Diego regions are outpacing the San Francisco Bay Area.


· Paul Scott (not verified) · 7 years ago

So far, we've delivered three LEAFs here in Santa Monica to very happy customers. I'm eagerly awaiting my very own LEAF, set to arrive any day now. The $5,000 is certainly warranted, but the car is worth every penny of the full price, even without the federal tax credit, too.

· Matt L (not verified) · 7 years ago


I just purchased a (made in America) Chevy Volt so I could help our environment in CA, lower dependence on fossil fuel and save money. It is an awesome vehicle! I was hoping someone could provide me with accurate and up-to-date information regarding CA state incentives for my investment all of our futures. Upon doing some research on the availability of applying for a State EV rebate (designed to increase the adoption of these vehicles), I was utterly shocked to see that the Volt has been excluded completely from the program. I am trying to understand what is being done to update the assessment rules for a vehicle as innovative as the Volt. It appears it is so innovative in approaching electric propulsion and extended range that the current rules can not evaluate it fairly against it's competition. This innovation allows for unmatched versatility and makes this EV option realistic for a huge portion of the population. While it is a zero emission for only the first 40 miles even if you drive it 300 miles it is a MASSIVE reduction in emission and fossil fuel use over a standard vehicle, even a hybrid (EPA best rating among all compact cars 60 mpge!) . I heard that something is being done to remedy this situation and give the Volt and it's owners proper credit and incentive for investing in the kind of technology that will further the goals of the State's program.
I hope our legislature will wake up and move quickly to fix this problem and treat citizens of CA like me and US manufactures like GM on par with Japanese competitors (who's profit leave this State and the country).

· Voltfan (not verified) · 7 years ago

In my opinion current battery technology is satisfactory for the enviromintalist, but I don't think the ordinary motorist is willing to put up with the limitations of the current technology. Specifically, low energy density, long recharge times and battery performance due to environment or age. The Volt is not perfect, but considering these limitations, it is the best solution to move the general population towards electric transportation. As such, I believe the CARB is being extremely short-sighted to not support the Volt.

· JJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

Booooo. $2 million could support many bus runs.

· · 7 years ago

@Matt L : Volt is not good enough when you run it in CS mode - so it doesn't meet the criteria for getting incentives. BTW, it is a plug-in hybrid, not an electric car.

· George Parrott (not verified) · 7 years ago

@Matt L.
As EVNow noted, the Volt did not qualify for the California rebate, but my understanding is that GM opted to not fully engineer it to meet the California requirements in terms of how clean the car must be when running with the ICE on. Supposedly in the next iteration the Volt will be so conforming, but for now you and I are out of luck on the California incentive. I am GREATLY impressed with my Volt, which arrived at home last Thursday morning, and I think it too bad that it does not fully meet the California demanding ICE restrictions.

But that was a GM "strategic decision" according to my understanding.

Now on the point of FOUR PASSENGER only vehicles, I think that it way short-sighted on the part of our policy makers. I don't think a Tesla sports car buyer needs to get the California incentive, but I would NOT restrict that incentive on "two vs four" passenger configuration, as several of the upcoming small company HIGH EFFICIENCY vehicles (Aptera, etc.) are two passenger and SUPER clean and efficient. RATHER than restrict to only four passenger vehicles, I would LOBBY FOR a restriction on vehicle PRICE to qualify for the buyer rebate. Putting a maximum MSRP base price for the California Rebate at around $80,000 would eliminate the Tesla sports car and the Fisker Karma luxury EV-hybrid, but still allow the Tesla S and the Fisker Nina and pretty much all the other proposed real "people's cars" to be qualified for such an incentive program.

IF one can afford and $90,000-$120,000+ car to me means that such a buyer does not need a state supported "incentive" to go "green."

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