California electric-car rebates out of cash again; legislature neglected to fund them

National Plug-In Day 2012: San Francisco, with 60 Nissan Leafs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

National Plug-In Day 2012: San Francisco, with 60 Nissan Leafs in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

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Incentives for the purchase of a plug-in battery-powered vehicle continue to be a powerful motivation to get new buyers to consider electric cars.

The federal income-tax credit of $2,500 to $7,500 has long been supplemented by various state programs, including a purchase rebate in the crucial California market.

Now the California Clean Vehicle Rebate program is putting new applicants for its “check in the mail” incentives onto a waiting list.

DON’T MISS: California to test electric-car ‘point of purchase’ rebate for electric cars

Program administrators say that even though California governor Jerry Brown recently signed the most recent state budget, it did not include funds for the rebate program.

As CarsDirect explains, the means the program is nearing the end of its existing funding, which provides $2,500 to battery-electric car buyers and $1,500 for plug-in hybrid purchases.

So, since June 30, administrators at the Center for Sustainable Energy have been putting the most recent applicants into a queue to ensure they only issue rebates up to the amount currently funded.

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

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The one exception is low-income buyers, who get priority for the rebates. The program was restructured last year to boost electric-car purchase incentives for lower-income drivers.

Buyers whose applications were received before June 30 can expect to receive their checks, but the fate of rebates for buyers since then is somewhat less certain.

“FY 2016-17 funding will be exhausted before FY 2017-18 funds will be appropriated and allocated to the project,” according to the program website—meaning a delay that could well stretch into months for the most recent applicants.

READ THIS: CA Ends Electric-Car Rebates For Wealthy Buyers, Boosts Them For Poorest

A program representative suggests that it expects the state legislature to figure out how to maintain the program by mid-September.

The legislative session ends on September 15, so the hiatus could last at least two months if the decision comes down to the wire.

This isn’t the first time rebate applicants have been put on a list, however, rather than receiving their checks within a few weeks.

2016 Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt EV at Drive Electric Week event, Los Angeles [photo: Zan Dubin Scott]

2016 Nissan Leaf, Chevy Bolt EV at Drive Electric Week event, Los Angeles [photo: Zan Dubin Scott]

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Exactly the same thing happened last year, although in 2016, the list started on June 10 rather than this year’s June 30.

Within a couple of months, funding was allocated and the rebates resumed as before.That’s largely what’s expected to happen this time, too.

Given its strong environmental record and aggressive plans for reducing carbon emissions, California is hardly likely to end its state incentives for purchase of zero-emission or partially zero-emission vehicles.

CHECK OUT: California electric-car rebates caught up in politics as cash runs out (Jun 2016)

CarsDirect notes, however, that carmakers are continuing to offer strong incentives on several vehicles, including those sold only in California.

Both battery-electric and plug-in hybrid models carry a variety of deals to keep older and lower-range models selling as shoppers increasingly focus on the arrival of longer-range battery-electric vehicles.

Those include the 238-mile Chevrolet Bolt EV—on sale in the state last December—and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 and 2018 Nissan Leaf, both of which are expected to offer 200 miles of range or more.

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