California’s Low-Income Electric Car Incentive Bill On Track to Become Law

California’s well-known plug-in car incentive program designed to get more Californians behind the wheel of an electric car or plug-in hybrid, currently offers those who can afford to buy a plug-in car up to $2,500 in rebates to lower the net cost of making the switch from gasoline to electric.

Cars like the Mitsubishi i-Miev could soon be far cheaper to own and operate for low-income households in California.

Cars like the Mitsubishi i-Miev could soon be far cheaper to own and operate for low-income households in California.

Despite it and up to $7,500 in Federal tax credits for making the switch to electric however, plug-in cars are simply too expensive for many low-income families — the very people who stand to benefit the most from the low maintenance and running costs of a plug-in car — to even consider.

Now Californian Senate Bill 1275 is on the brink of changing that forever by proposing an extra layer of green car incentives designed to get low-income families out of heavily-polluting, older vehicles. Introduced to the Senate back in February, the SB1275 cleared its final major hurdle yesterday by passing the Californian Assembly 46-23.

While the bill has to be passed one more time by the Senate before it receives its final passage to the Governor’s desk, the bill’s supporters say that this is purely a formality; the last time it was in the Senate SB1275 received overwhelming support.

It has until August 31 to gain final passage.

For many Californians, cars like the Nissan LEAF have simply been too expensive to consider.

For many Californians, cars like the Nissan LEAF have simply been too expensive to consider.

At its heart, SB 1275 — authored by Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and fronted by the ChargeAhead initiative — proposes adding an income-contingent cap to the existing $2,500 Clean Vehicle Rebate Project incentive for plug-in cars. This would prevent those with high household incomes from claiming the rebate, saving it for those whose income level may normally prohibit the purchase of an expensive plug-in car.

The bill also proposes ways to increase access to clean transportation in low-income and disadvantaged areas, by rewarding those who trade in their low-efficiency, ‘clunkers’ with extra incentives designed to help them buy a new or used electric car or to enough vouchers to enable them to ditch personal car ownership and use public transport and car sharing projects instead.

These incentives would operate alongside any existing incentives, meaning those in a low-income family could find themselves at the wheel of an all-electric car for far less than they once could have dreamed of.

We’ll keep you posted with the progress of this important bill in the coming days, but given the wide support it has received to date, there’s nothing to suggest it won’t be passed into law.

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  • Michael Thwaite

    I think that it’s folly to think that household income at any level affects car emissions.nnnLow-income families usually drive older cars or brand-new hummers – they really couldn’t get shut of them – but, higher income families are more likely to make an EV purchase as multi-car families able to live with the limitations of EV range. With that purchase, they release a good second-hand car into the market for the lower income families to purchase.nnnThis makes less sense than only offering incentives to high-income families on the premise that they’re more likely to replace a big gas-guzzler.nnnCash-for-clunkers and tighter emissions regulations is a better way to get polluting vehicles off the road.

    • vdiv

      A better electrified public transit system would also be a better way, something the state, any state, should take a bit more seriously.

  • Esl1999 .

    As a Democratic Californian, I only hope we don’t bankrupt the state with over zealous, wishful-thinking, Robin Hood type legislative bills. We’ve seem to let our hearts rule our heads in this state. By the way, I don’t come across a lot of low income people telling me, ” God, if only the iMiev was a little bit cheaper, I’d trade in my 1998 Cadillac.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Low income car buyers are looking at vehicles up to about $2,000. Even with the rebates, a new EV is still too far out of budget. nnnCalifornia would be better off taking that money (that they don’t have) and applying it to building charging infrastructure. nnnI’d really like to see my electric tariff have a time of day discount. Maybe it would be better for politicians to work on pushing that issue rather than trying to provide the latest tech to the poor.