There's no denying that California had has an immense part to play in the shaping of the automotive landscape, particularly when it comes to electric vehicles. While some automakers get by with building relatively small numbers of "compliance cars," there's no doubt that the state's zero-emissions-vehicle laws have made an impact on the cars that come to market. Factor in the state's large population as well as its EV rebates and other incentives, and it's no surprise that the rest of the country - and the world, for that matter - is constantly watching California to see how its various clean car experiments pan out. Now, eyes turn to California once again as it alters its famed Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) to take income into account.

High-income drivers will lose out on the rebate altogether.

California's Air Resources Board (CARB) has finally announced a timeframe for changes to the CVRP, and it's happening soon. As of March 29, 2016, rebates for low- and moderate-income purchasers and lessees of eligible vehicles will increase by $1,500, while high-income drivers will lose out on the rebate altogether.

For the purposes of this program, CARB defines "low- and moderate-income consumers" as those earning a gross income up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, the income limit to receive the additional rebate is $35,640. For a two-person household, that's $48,060, and $72,900 for a family of four. If you earn less than that in a year, you're eligible for a $4,000 rebate for a battery electric vehicle (BEV), and $3,000 for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

High-income buyers won't be offered a rebate at all. That includes individuals with an income of $250,000, $340,000 for head-of-household filers and $500,000 for joint filers. If you earn less than that, but more than three times the poverty level, your rebate remains unchanged: $2,500 for BEVs and $1,500 for PHEVs.

Fuel cell vehicles (FCEV) are governed by different rebate rules. FCEVs get a $5,000 rebate, with no income cap. Those low- to moderate- income earners, though, will still enjoy an extra $1,500, for a total rebate of $6,500. According to CARB,though, FCEVs represent fewer than one in 100 rebates issued.

So, if you're wealthy, now would be a good time to pull the trigger on that zero-emissions car you've been eyeing (unless you're interested in a Toyota Mirai; then, no hurry). On the other hand, if you've been pinching pennies to save up for a new car, EVs are about to become slightly more obtainable.

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