California's EV Rebate Programs Are Shutting Down

The state wants residents to buy EVs, but programs to make them more affordable just can't keep up. So, they're throwing in the towel.

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Screenshot: Cleanvehiclerebate.org

California wants residents to purchase EVs in droves, to continue building it’s green-supporting reputation. But like nearly all new vehicles, the prices for them aren’t getting any cheaper and thousands of people are still shut out of buying them because of unaffordability. While there are rebate programs at the state, county, and sometimes local levels, many of these programs aren’t helpful because people cant use them. As the Ventura County Star reports, many California EV rebate programs are either shutting down or running out of money.

There have to be hundreds, if not a few thousand EV rebate programs available to residents in the state of California. They can be found at every level from the state down to local cities and districts. Not all are equal though. Many have an income eligibility component that potential buyers have to qualify for. Others have no requirement at all. But they’re all facing problems.

April was the deadline for many rebate programs statewide to shut down if they didn’t receive funding, so many are now gone. Others have waitlists so long that people can no longer be placed on the waitlist. And if some on the waitlist do get approved, they face months of wait time to receive a check. For those that do receive a rebate, it’s often so late the price of the vehicle has gone up enough that buyers lose any cost savings the rebate provided.

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Now what’s happening is a ripple effect. Buyers whose emissions-making ICE vehicles would be taken off the road, aren’t purchasing EVs right now and it’s setting back the state’s EV goals. “We got into this program and it’s not helping like it’s supposed to,” said one Bay Area resident who hoped to purchase a Mustang Mach-E. But the Ford EV is now unaffordable to that resident, because of a lack of rebates and markups. “It’s useless at this time because there’s nothing out there and the cars that you do find, everything’s gone up in price.”

What’s worse is that the low-income buyers many of these programs are supposed to be helping, are being left out. Higher-income earners who can afford to go out and buy an EV, are getting the rebates first and using them up, leaving the low-income buyers (low-income for state rebates is considered an income level that’s below 225 percent of the federal poverty level) out in the cold.

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Interestingly, California is the only state having this problem. There are at least seven other states offering comparable, various EV rebates, and yet none of them are having a funding problem. New York, for instance, added $12 million in funding to its consumer EV rebate program back in January. Granted, California’s problem may have something to do with the fact that there are just so many people here. In 2021 alone, over 663,000 EVs (battery electric) were sold in California.

EV rebate problems, lack of proper charging infrastructure, low inventory, and high prices are all combining to make an EV transition that’s not as widespread or welcoming as it was made out to be.