Sunshine State’s EV Cash Hand-Outs Boost Adoption

California is leading the United States in electric vehicle adoption.

The Sunshine state has many programs and incentives that are enticing Californians to buy and lease electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. “California is home to half of the EVs in the country,” says Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

She notes that it is important that consumers of all income levels know about charging stations and learn about rebates and incentives. “We want to deploy EVs to the mass market and we are doing whatever we can to make it happen,” said Nichols.  California’s official goal to have five million EVs by 2030.

The California Clean Vehicle Project (CVRP) offers rebates for new car purchases or leases of around $1,000 for plug-in hybrids, $2,000 for full battery electric EVs and up to $7,000 for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles depending upon income. Since 2010, CVRP has helped put more than 350,000 low tailpipe emission vehicles on California roads.

According to research by Nicholas Pallonetti and Brett Williams, rebates and incentives are major luring factors for EV adoption, followed by the high cost of fuel. Four out of five of rebated EVs replaced older, more polluting vehicles. Vehicle replacement is most often influenced by financial factors, including appealing incentives. In absence of the rebate, two=thirds of consumers may have used a different vehicle than rebated, one-third a non-EV, and one-fifth kept hold of with their old vehicle. An added benefit when compared to buying a new non-EV, rebated EVs may be saving more than 30 tons of green house case emissions at tailpipe level per vehicle in a 12-year life cycle.

An added perk is that EV and plug-in hybrid drivers can also enjoy driving in the faster high occupancy vehicle/carpool lane. One program that has grown in popularity in the state of California is the ‘Replace your Ride’ program in which low-income participants receive up to $9,500 towards the price of new or used battery electric vehicle when they turn in an older higher emission model. From of the inception of the program in 2015 until 10 March 2020, 6,151 vehicles older vehicles have been replaced with cleaner vehicles.

“The success of the Replace Your Ride Program shows that incentives can help accelerate the transition to cleaner mobile sources, a major step in improving air quality throughout the South Coast Air Basin,” says Joseph Impullitti, manager of the technology demonstration group at the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Technology Advancement Office.

The CVRP also offers grants up to $2,000 for charger installations or a $1,000 prepaid charge card valid at public EVgo charging stations. A problem may low-income EV owners have is they typically live in apartment buildings and need a place to charge their vehicles.

California Low Carbon Fuel Standard credits are being used to install chargers in low-income areas in the city of Colton. “We couldn’t get the apartment owners to install chargers, so we installed curbside EV charging units for street parking near multi-family dwelling units, “says Jessica Sutorous, environmental conservation supervisor at Colton. “We need to decrease the cost of electric vehicle ownership for low-income drivers.” Most utilities in the state of California offer a rebate of about $500 for installing a wi-fi connected vehicle charging system in homes and incentives in the thousands of dollars for businesses.

Cities that own their own utilities are giving out rebates for owning vehicles. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was promoting their $1,500 rebate for purchasing a used EV and gave special tours to visitors. The rebate is still in effect while other local California utilities offer rebates from $500 -$1,500 for driving an EV with higher rebates for low-income EV drivers.

Utilities such as the Glendale Water and Power, Pasadena Water and Power and Burbank Water and Power sponsor electric drive events where potential EV buyers get to test-drive electric cars without the pressure of salespeople.

“We have found that electric drive events are one of the best tools to get people to buy or lease electric vehicles. Consumers are given the opportunity to learn about incentives from government agencies as well as their electric company,” says Chris Alan, publisher of Electric Car Insider and provider of electric drive events all over America.

“They also learn about different types of charging and charging programs. Plus driving electric vehicles creates contagious enthusiasm for electric cars when people experience for themselves how much fun it is to drive an electric vehicle.”

Local utilities are also contributing to charging infrastructure. The City of Pasadena recently opened the largest public fast-charging station in the nation with 44 fast chargers available that will be free to use limited time.

Automakers who don’t meet California’s air quality standards, however, have been put on notice. The CARB boycotted the Los Angeles Auto Show in November of last year. Nichols said in a conference call that CARB looked forward attending the show every, however, “We’re sending the message that this is not business as usual. We are mad that automakers joined lawsuits against California and then issued misleading press releases.”

Nichols noted that the “Fabulous Four”– Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW – claimed to continue to support California standards even when they were threatening state regulators with lawsuits.

The state of California is not buying any vehicles made by automakers that don’t meet its negotiated standards. Sutorous, sums up California’s philosophy this way, “In the end, we are helping to clean the air.”

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