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California Is Basically Paying You To Buy An Electric Car

Owning an EV in CA no longer breaks the bank

Audrey Davis
August 23 2021
Let’s face it: not everyone can afford a Tesla Roadster. For plenty of people, it would break the bank to buy a Tesla of any kind, giving today’s electric vehicles a somewhat bougie rep. And even with other major manufacturers rolling out new electric models at an increasingly brisk pace, many buyers on a budget have been hesitant to take a chance on them. After all, why get the new Volkswagen ID.4 when you could get a tried-and-true Passat or Jetta at a lower price?

Rutger van de Maar/Flickr/CC By 2.0

These concerns are definitely justified, and will hopefully push automakers to make their EV models more affordable as the technology advances. But for now, anyone looking to buy an electric vehicle should know that going electric doesn’t have to break the bank – actually, thanks to rebate programs like the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP), it might do just the opposite.

Smnt/Wikipedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The program, which has been around since 2010, offers up to $7000 in rebates for the purchase of new, zero-emission vehicles. Electric cars obviously fit the requirement here, but so do hydrogen fuel cell EVs, and some hybrids. Most eligible vehicles earn a modest (but not insignificant) $2000 rebate. But don’t forget, that’s on top of an additional federal tax credit for buying these cars, which can be as high as $7500. So, at best, a prospective EV buyer in California could be looking at around $10,000 in free money towards the new car.

San José Clean Energy/Twitter

So why don’t more people know about this? Well, the number of rebates issued per month in California has been steadily rising since 2011, so the simplest explanation might be that awareness has grown as more and more electric cars have become available. But there’s a little more to it than that. The CVRP also caps rebate availability based on income, which is supposed to ensure that funds only go to those who need them. But few steps have been taken to advertise that. The rebate also applies only to newly leased or purchased vehicles, but low-income buyers (the group that benefits most from the rebate) may be more inclined to buy used vehicles.

Another complicating factor is the waitlist currently in effect for rebates, which means that approved applicants will have to wait for their checks until the State of California makes funds available again for the program. As of Aug. 4, the CVRP has been informing waitlisted applicants that the funding has been approved, but probably won’t be available for several months. Will the public’s interest fade entirely during that time, or will the CVRP use this lull as an opportunity to reach out to communities that need assistance? At a time when EVs are quickly becoming the future of the automotive industry, a little cash incentive might be all it takes to bring that future closer.



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