What's Going on With California's EV Rebate Programs?

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California currently has the highest share of electric vehicles (EVs) in America, and the state is pushing for even more EV adoption.
However, they’ll need to expand their EV charging network to make chargers more accessible and reliable. The state has also been offering incentives to encourage consumers to switch to electric.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy for EV drivers to take advantage of these rebate programs and incentives.
Side view of an SUV driving on a road along the Pacific coast
California drivers are having a hard time getting EV rebates.

What electric vehicle incentives does California have?

There are a lot of EV rebate programs with similar names. According to Los Angeles Times, this includes the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, Clean Vehicle Assistance Program, and Clean Cars 4 All. The Rebate Project has paid consumers around $1 billion in rebates so far.
A federal tax credit worth $7,500 is the most significant government incentive, as reported by MarketWatch. This lets you reduce the amount of income taxes you owe in the year that you buy your car.
Every rebate program comes with its own rules about eligibility that look at things like income level or the type of electric car you buy. These incentives can help make EVs more affordable for consumers, but they’ve been difficult to access.

What are the problems with California’s EV rebate programs?

The names of about 8,000 California EV buyers are sitting on the rebate wait-list, as reported by Los Angeles Times. Some people have been waiting up to six months for rebates after purchasing an electric car.
The process of trying to figure out whether your car and income level qualify you for a rebate can be time-consuming and frustrating. Many air quality districts offer rebates with their own individual requirements that make it even more confusing for consumers.
Auto dealers welcome the rebate programs but found that there’s still a lot of delays and red tape around the programs. For that reason, the hundreds of millions of tax dollars going into EV rebate programs might not be as effective as expected.
Unpredictable and erratic funding is another key obstacle to providing these incentives. The Assistance Program that should help low-income individuals purchase an EV ran out of cash in March. The Rebate Project also ran out of money in April.
As a result, applicants for the Assistance Program were put on a waitlist. A spokesperson for the Air Resources Board in charge of the program says that they might have to close the list.

Other ways that California can help EV buyers save money

Currently, California’s greenhouse gas reduction fund and state general funds finance the state’s EV Rebate Project, as reported by Los Angeles Times. The state uses uncertain forecasts for EV sales to determine how much money to allocate for funding.
If the forecast is too low, the cash will run out. Increasing the gasoline tax might be a better solution to encourage people to buy zero-emission vehicles. But this would be a political nightmare. A carbon tax was being considered under the administration of former Gov. Jerry Brown, but this didn’t see legislative support.
The state is examining the structure of its rebate programs. California might look to offer incentives for public chargers instead of cars and trucks. This can lower the overall cost of EV ownership and may be more viable than spending several billions of dollars for clunky rebate programs.
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