By on July 11, 2017

nissan leaf charging electric car

California wants to fund more generous rebates for electric vehicle buyers as part of a massive agenda to support the adoption of zero-emission vehicles. In addition to federal incentives, the state has its own rebate program and has made plans to add additional state-sponsored tax breaks for EV buyers.

However, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy, California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate program has almost run out of funding — for a second time — after Governor Jerry Brown neglected to include it in the state budget.

As a result, the program can no longer offer rebates to purchasers of zero-emission vehicles and has placed those who made a purchase after June 30th on a refund waiting list. It’s bad news for anyone in California who wanted to by an electric car. Well, unless you’re poor, because the State of California really wants to convince low-income households to buy electric for some reason. 

This isn’t the first time California has showed a bias toward low-income individuals in regard to EV purchasing. Earlier this year, the state mandated that Volkswagen reserve a portion of its charging network for disadvantaged neighborhoods — instead of the  higher traffic or commercial areas electric vehicles are more likely to occupy.

The state is also considering the California Electric Vehicle Initiative, which would apply additional incentives directly at the time of purchase, rather than forcing taxpayers to wait for a refund. That bill provides $3 billion in state incentives on top of the federal rebates based on manufacturer quotas. If passed, it would also set aside $500 million per year in cap and trade program funds to ensure that disadvantaged communities, schools, transit buses, and freight benefit from the electrification push.

California’s current EV program reimburses shoppers after the purchase of plug-in electric or fuel cell vehicles. Current state-based rebates range between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on the type of vehicle and the income of the buyer — prioritizing higher rebates for lesser incomes.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with aiding the poor, why California thinks green vehicles are an essential aspect of that endeavor is bewildering. Electric vehicles provide numerous advantages, but affordability is often not among them. Even with government incentives, EVs typically cost more than internal combustion vehicles and possess a lackluster resale value. Frankly, it would be difficult to prescribe one to someone who lives paycheck to paycheck.

There are exceptionally low leases to be had in the Golden State that are far easier to recommend to cash-strapped individuals. But those models are traditionally lower-range EVs that would make for affordable commuter cars and little else. In the end, it’s still easier to tell someone to buy a used Honda CR-V and drive it until the wheels fall off.

Of course, none of this explains why California cares about who is buying zero-emission vehicles in the first place.  The state is already leading the country in electric vehicle adoption, but it’s not keeping pace with its proposed goal of 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2025 and 5 million by 2030. With only about 300,000 EVs on California roads today, the state should be broadening its rebate reach — not focusing it on a small subset of the community that hasn’t been buying EVs.

It’s genuinely difficult to unpack the state’s rationale on the matter. While one almost wants to praise California for sticking it to the wealthy in this minuscule manner, it doesn’t seem to be helping the disadvantaged in any meaningful way. Instead, you’re left furrowing your brow in a futile attempt to identify who exactly is getting the best end of the bargain. Automakers? Mother Earth?

According to CarsDirect, the Center for Sustainable Energy said the rebate program will run out of money fairly soon, but it expects the state legislature to make a funding decision by September 15th — the end of its session.

[Image: Nissan]

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50 Comments on “State EV Rebates on Hiatus in California (Unless You’re Poor)...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Goodie- you can take the money from the rebate and put it together with the money you save by skipping registration, then add the money you save by getting out of a ticket for skipping registration!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “In the end, it’s still easier to tell someone to buy a used Honda CR-V and drive it until the wheels fall off.”

    Agreed.

    A poor guy can’t even afford the $400 charger for an EV, let alone the garage in the photo.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      When the wealthy political class say “poor”, they are referring to their own kids. Who are taking a few years “off” working on their resume, while raising awareness about some nonsense, at a San Francisco non profit. For those guys, getting someone else to pay for their trendy toy, saves daddy some money.

  • avatar
    2manycars

    So, a guy or gal who can barely afford to pay their rent and put food on the table is going to go out and buy a new electric car because some bureaucratic State thug is going to steal from someone else to offset a small part of the cost.

    This is the kind of nonsense we’ve come to expect from the Land of Fruits and Nuts. California truly is an insane asylum being run by the inmates. You could not pay me enough to live there.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      That is nothing compared to freeing tens of thousands of prison inmates and mandating some of the highest gasoline, electricity and water prices in the country. Also, taxes. Lots and lots of taxes.

      Here are some tidbits from Stanford history professor Victor Davis Hanson:

      “Crime rates are going up again in California, sometimes dramatically so. In Los Angeles, various sorts of robberies, assaults, and homicide rose between 5 and 10 percent over 2015; since 2014, violent crime has skyrocketed by 38 percent. This May, California’s association of police chiefs complained that since the passage of Proposition 47 — which reclassified supposedly “nonserious” crimes as misdemeanors and kept hundreds of thousands of convicted criminals out of jail — crime rates in population centers of more than 100,000 have increased more than 15 percent. California governor Jerry Brown has let out more parolees — including over 2,000 serving life sentences — than any recent governor.

      The basket of California state taxes — sales, income and gasoline — rates among the highest in the U.S. Yet California roads and K-12 education rank near the bottom.

      After years of drought, California has not built a single new reservoir. Instead, scarce fresh aqueduct water is still being diverted to sea. Thousands of rural central California homes, in Dust Bowl fashion, have been abandoned due to a sinking aquifer and dry wells.

      One in three American welfare recipients resides in California. Almost a quarter of the state population lives below or near the poverty line. Yet the state’s gas and electricity prices are among the nation’s highest.

      One in four state residents was not born in the U.S. Current state-funded pension programs are not sustainable.

      California depends on a tiny elite class for about half of its income tax revenue. Yet many of these wealthy taxpayers are fleeing the 40-million-person state, angry over paying 12% of their income for lousy public services.

      Public health costs have soared as one-third of California residents admitted to state hospitals for any causes suffer from diabetes, a sometimes-lethal disease often predicated on poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive weight.

      Nearly half of all traffic accidents in the Los Angeles area are classified as hit-and-run collisions.”

      Only the left could have so comprehensively retarded the potential of this gem of a state. They are the destroyers of wealth created by others. They are two steps behind Illinois, which doesn’t have a magic Pacific coastline moneybelt to keep it solvent.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        OK, if we all can’t just get along, could we just talk about cars?

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Forget it Jake, it’s TTAC town.

        • 0 avatar
          zip89123

          Facts are facts. I was paying $800 to PG&E for electricity not too long ago. Cost of living in tax & spend CA is outrageous and the legislative clowns want me to get a plug-in vehicle? Funny!

          • 0 avatar
            smokingclutch

            How the hell were you spending $800 on electricity, even in CA? I have a 2,800 square foot house with a pool, jacuzzi, and two central air units, and the most I’ve paid is $240 a month with SoCal Edison.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        And meanwhile, in Red-As-Hell Kansas…

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          I’m not even a Republican Freedmike, but…

          “The ten most financially sound states in the country are all heavily Republican, while all but one of the ten worst states are heavily Democratic. That’s according to a ranking of states in a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University

          The report — “Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition” — used official government data to measure the states’ ability to pay short-term bills and meet longer-term obligations, such as public pensions or health care costs, using five separate measures.”

          http://www.investors.com/politics/commentary/best-run-states-are-heavily-republican-study-finds/

          • 0 avatar
            stingray65

            Laine, of course the Republican states are more financially sound, but its only because they are run by racists, homophobics, Islamphobics, misogynistic politicians who don’t understand that citizens (and unregistered immigrants) in pain need to be compensated for the sins of someone else’s great great great (white) grandfather. These deplorables also don’t understand that spreading the wealth around makes for well ordered societies as illustrated by all the cities that have benefited from decades of enlightened Democratic leadership such as Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Oakland, Milwaukee, Chicago, etc. Thank goodness the social justice warriors are being heard in California so the poor and downtrodden can finally get help in buying a new Tesla. Perhaps the poor can also be pushed to the front of the Model 3 waiting list.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            True Stingray. Show some compassion, electrify the poor. Thank you California.

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            Kansas is only two steps behind Colorado? I live in Colorado, about 100 miles or so from Kansas. It’s a S*IT SHOW there. It’s so bad that the overwhelmingly GOP legislature told Brownback where to put his tax-raise veto.

            Har har har. Thanks for the laugh.

            I’m calling that report garbage right here and now.

          • 0 avatar
            thelaine

            Of course you do. That is why I ignore leftists calls for citations. Total waste of time. It is not an point of view, it is a religion. Good vs evil. The coming apocalypse. Indulgences and dispensations.It is human nature.

      • 0 avatar

        Still despite all its achievements California cannot beat Illinois or even Puerto Rico or Greece.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    This is the kind of (sorry) liberal sh** that drives me nuts. I’m okay (moreso than most of my political leanings, and on this site) with tax incentives for EVs, I do think it’s a worthwhile thing for the government to push. It decreases our reliance on foreign oil which gets us closer to the time when we can stop giving a flying f*** about what happens in the ME. All good things.

    But then they go and c*** it up by deciding “OMG what if an Evil Rich Person benefits from this tax incentive and responds by doing what we wanted him to?” God forbid. If it’s good for someone to get a tax break for buying an EV, it’s good for everyone, not just for poor people who can’t/won’t do it anyways. This same mentality is what causes them to freak out when, say, GE buys a whole fleet of green cars and reaps a huge tax break; who did they think was going to profit, only the minority owned transgendered organic GF farmer down the street and no one else???

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Let’s hope this doesn’t set off a wave of “bias towards low-income individuals.” The poor get ALL the breaks in our society. Maybe I should give away all my property so I can get in on the fun! ; >

    After reading the story three times, I still don’t understand what special treatment California is giving these po’ folks. Does a buyer’s low income increase the rebate, and by how much? Or are poor people the only ones allowed to receive rebates? Real journalists make sure to touch base on the Three Ws: What’s changed, Who it affects, When it takes effect, Where it happens…but this writer too wrapped up in the Why of it all. He’s writing the editorial before he’s even published the story. After reading, I know more about the writer than I wanted to, but not enough about the big picture to inform my own opinion.

    Frankly, this obsessive opinionating, the cranky, derisive bloviating, the smug all-knowingness and the arch sourness of TTAC bothers me more every day. Nevertheless, I persist, because I have a genuine interest.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      The article specifically states that lower-income buyers are now being prioritized for the remaining rebate funding and were issued higher incentives in the first place. Maybe your fourth time reading it will be the charm.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        You’re referring to the third paragraph? “As a result, the program can no longer offer rebates to purchasers of zero-emission vehicles and has placed those who made a purchase after June 30th on a refund waiting list. It’s bad news for anyone in California who wanted to by an electric car. Well, unless you’re poor,…”

        It’s still not very clear. Sounds like the “poor” (how poor?) don’t get put on the waiting list? Just say so, simply and clearly. Seems like you’re so anxious to opinionate, you have no attention span for delivering the facts. But you don’t need that many facts, do you, to start click-bait brushfires about hating California, hating Liberals, resenting the poor?

        Does anybody know a good forum for factual auto news, with less spin? Somebody needs to turn the Stability Control back on…

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        To put a finer point on it, EV buyers were promised that rebate when the bought their cars. Now the state is delaying and possibly failing to meet that commitment. That’s a problem, and for these poor folks, it’s a problem that could seriously squeeze their finances. Do you resent that California is paying the neediest people first?

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Neediest subsidized electric car buyers? Oy.

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Posky

            The goal here was to unpack what California was actually trying to accomplish with its incentive program — since it’s supposed to be based on raising EV volume and nothing else. While I know that being incensed is a popular pastime online, I issued no hostilities against liberal politics, the poor, or the State of California — nor would I. But you’re welcome to inject whatever angry paranoias you have into your daily life.

            For the sake of clarity, any household incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of federal poverty level qualify. This amount changes with every household but individuals making under $36,181 are eligible for the extra rebates. Obviously, that income threshold goes up for larger households.

            The bonus amount has changed several times over the last two years and California has yet to give specifics on the new deal. However, it is assumed that the “poor folks” will remain at the same income benchmarks. This information is available on the CVRP website.

            Good luck finding a new automotive website.

  • avatar
    Heino

    This is the equivalent of making Walmart sell asparagus water. Maybe throw in an REI membership hoping they might enjoy the outdoors.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “It’s genuinely difficult to unpack the state’s rationale on the matter.”

    We have one-party rule in California. And that party’s aim in every program they control is to turn it into an income redistribution scheme.
    .
    .

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    “You could not pay me enough to live there.”

    My company can and does pay me enough to live here. Politics notwithstanding, it’s pretty good: crime is low; the weather is nearly perfect, and it’s a short drive to places that are breathtakingly beautiful.
    .
    .

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      While I don’t live there, were I able to afford it, I sure wouldn’t mind being there.

      …if someone were paying me to, that is. My dollar gets me a lot further in the Midwest.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Seems to me that for all the stupid political back and forth, this is a moot point. After all, you can *offer* tax breaks to poor folks for buying an EV, but if they can’t afford it, then they’re not getting the tax break.

    Bad optics, for sure. And it’s nonsense. It’s their way of saying they’re supporting poor folks without actually supporting poor folks. Dumb. But there’s no shortage of nonsense in our politics these days.

    Right, Governor Christie?

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    If the subject is the California Electric Vehicle Initiative, the purpose of that is fairness. Not every car buyer can wait until next spring to collect their tax refund, like the well-off can.

    Colorado also passed a law last year that allows our $5000 tax credit to be rolled into the deal at the closing table. But my credit union knows nothing about this, and my tax accountant says it’s so far almost impossible to collect. Never mind, we can wait.

    I’ll leave it to individual buyers to determine whether an EV or plug-in suits their needs, because I’m a live-and-let-live guy who hesitates to tell everyone else what to do. But here’s my own application of these rebates. A 2017 Ford C-Max Energi Titanium, a plug in-hybrid. MSRP of $33,190, negotiated down to $25,175, minus the federal tax credit of $4007= $21,168, minus Colorado credit of $5000 = $16,168, plus floor mats.

    That seems like a smart, frugal deal for a new car, loaded, that runs on gas or AC shore power. Thank you, fellow taxpayers! Maybe instead of griping that somebody, somewhere is getting a break, you ought to belly up to the bar and get yours today. Sorry, California…

    • 0 avatar
      S2k Chris

      But then you have to drive around in a Ford C-Max Energi. My wife and I did on Maui. That thing sucked donkey balls.

      • 0 avatar
        Chocolatedeath

        Um. no it doesnt. Dude thats harsh.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        I’ve spent a week in a C-Max Energi Hybrid that I helped my daughter buy. For about 300 miles of city and rural driving, I never found much fault with it. Yes, the dash is an ugly Ford monstrosity, but otherwise it was quite satisfying, and fast enough: Zero to sixty in 8 seconds matches my old MkII Golf GTI, and that wasn’t a slow car. It had a smooth, quiet big-car ride, but parks on a dime – almost by itself, in fact. I can fit in it, see out of it, and pretty soon, I was seeing myself in one, too.

        But don’t trust me. There are couple of past TTAC reviews praising the C-Max, and Baruth’s “baby mama” just replaced her Hybrid with an Energi model, with his approval, I suppose.

        My past frame of reference? A Mk V GTI. Not the same thing, but I won’t miss the extra performance. I’ve been hypermiling the GTI for a long time. So you Trumpsters, don’t judge me! When I plug it into the Colorado electricity grid, I’ll actually be rolling coal, just invisibly and remotely.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        Timothy Cain on June 21, 2016- “Yet the C-Max is a decidedly driver-friendly car, a car which may not beg to be thrown down a twisty road but nevertheless shines when you ask for swifter progress.” From https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2016/06/ford-c-max-vs-toyota-prius-ford-wins-nobody-heeds-c-max-recommendation/

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    ANd here in FL our EV tax breaks are close to nothing.

  • avatar

    Another problem for EVs in LA,esp for the “poor”.
    Over half of LA rents,one of-if not-the highest rate in the US.(And in real terms it’s higher. It’s all too common for 2 bedroom apartments to have 2 people listed on lease and have 6 or so people living there,)
    Kinda hard to put that fast charger in the garage when you don’t have one. It’s why the State is trying to force VW to put charging stations in low income areas.(Wonder who’s going to end up paying for the electricity and the constant repairs ;). It’s okay,the State will just jack up the rates on millionaires,then wonder why they left.)

  • avatar
    zip89123

    Jeez, $3 billion in new taxes so rich folks can buy more Tesla’s.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      And Nissans, BMWs, Fords, GMs, and Fiats. Tesla isn’t the only EV mfr, but they are the home team in CA.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Rich people also pay the bulk of taxes both federal and state so what’s your point? They’re basically subsidizing themselves.
      I could buy 10 Teslas a year and not even come vaguely close to getting back what I paid in income taxes last year.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    That’s not a garage, that’s a living room.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Some poor people can afford a specific type of ev – used ones. Problem is finding charging stations in their neighborhoods. Enter vw.

    Trying to make sense of nonsensical public policy decisions in CA is an exercise in futility.

  • avatar
    brianbobvaughn

    https://cleanvehiclerebate.org/eng/income-eligibility

    I like sourcing my information first.

    It’s 300% federal low income. Not great wages, but “low income” is a little misleading. Some people who fit in this category, don’t consider themselves at poverty, and want/have Hybrids/EV’s. Not everyone lives in LA where COLA is insane. California is a big place.

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Right or wrong, I think CA just believes this to be good political optics.

    It’s not like it will cost them much money, since so few of the intended recipients of this tax break will ever utilize it.

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      Ding ding ding! That is correct.

      In California’s Central Valley, where agriculture and oil is all there is and most people are literally dirt poor, but air quality is terrifyingly bad, they’ve worked to *actually* put poor people in EVs with a pilot program that put fat public down payments on dirt-cheap used first-gen EVs for low-income people (2012 Nissan Leaf with battery degradation anyone?), and offered free slow charging at the public library. A low entry price for a nice clean reliable late model used car with 127 mpg-e, occasional free fuel, and essentially zero scheduled maintenance required — that actually is a good deal for someone without much dough who just needs to get themselves to work and the kids to school. And it’s a damn sight better for everyone’s lungs than whatever they drove before, e.g. a clapped-out ’93 Explorer spewing a trail of death yet getting smog check waivers because the cost of repair would exceed the value of the car. The short range of the Leaf makes no difference — there’s no way in hell they would have trusted that Explorer on a road trip anyway. A gross polluter off the road, a non (tailpipe) polluter replacing it, a’safer and more reliable ride that saves the family money, and one of the best cost/benefit ratios available in a pollution control initiative : everyone wins.

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