California Forms Waiting List for Electric Car Rebates

By · April 01, 2014

California ZEV Rebates - Graph

Demand for plug-in cars in California, and for the state's rebates, has steadily increased over time. The green bar represents zero emissions vehicles, and the yellow bar shows plug-in hybrids.

The growth of electric car sales in California can be attributed, in part, to the state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. But the success of the program, which has surpassed expectations, caused the California Air Resources Board this week to temporarily suspend immediate processing of new rebate applications. The administrators of the program formed a waiting list for EV buyers seeking the rebate.

Buyers of pure electric cars qualify for a $2,500 rebate check (not a tax credit) in the mail. Plug-in hybrids get a $1,500 rebate. Since the program began in 2010, the Air Resources Board has issued about $100 million for more than 50,000 rebates. (For reference, there are about 180,000 plug-in cars in operation throughout the United States.)

Late last week, Dave Clegern, public information officer at CARB, told that the waiting list was not quite active. “If your application came in today, I’m told you shouldn’t end up on a waiting list,” he said. “At this point there isn’t anyone on such a list. We’re getting near that point, but I can’t give a specific date.”

Regardless of the waiting list, applications will continue to be accepted for rebate checks while additional funding is put in place. Funding for the continuation of the program is currently in the Governor’s proposed budget. That funding will be allocated pending the Legislature's passage of the budget and adoption of the annual Clean Vehicle Rebate Project spending plan by the Air Resources Board in June.

If Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

A coalition of automakers, non-profit agencies, and utilities are trying to ensure the continuation of the program without changes. “We've been working extremely hard with CARB and the governor's office to keep the incentives in place as long as possible,” Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug In America, told “Anyone who got their application in before March 27, 2014, should get their rebate check quickly. Anyone who applies after that date will most likely have to wait as long as September to get their check, but it will still be at this year's rebate levels.”

The coalition has also been fighting against proposed modifications to the program, listed on the agenda of a Feb. 13 CARB meeting (PDF) regarding investments for the 2014 – 2015 fiscal year.

Modifications under consideration include:

  • Reduced rebate amounts
  • Vehicle MSRP cap (possibly based on technology class)
  • Consumer income cap
  • Limits on number of rebates per vehicle manufacturer
  • Phase-out rebates for plug-in hybrids and neighborhood electric vehicles
  • A “choose your incentive” option between a rebate or HOV lane sticker

Currently, about 2,500 rebates are being processed each month totaling between $6 million and $7 million. According to the Air Resources Board, demand has recently been picking up.

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