California may start offering point-of-sale plug-in rebates

Pilot program could begin in San Diego this year.

California may start funding point-of-sale rebates on electric vehicles and other zero-emissions vehicles in order to spur more green car purchases, especially among those in the lower income brackets who may be turned off by their higher prices. The California Air Resources Board's ( CARB) Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) currently offers as much as $7,000 in rebates, depending on the customer's income level, but that check is mailed out after the vehicle is purchased. The new program would bake the rebate into the vehicle purchase, meaning that the savings becomes instantaneous, Cars Direct reports, citing CARB documents.

CARB is considering San Diego for a pilot program for the new rebate before the end of the year, as that metropolitan area offers a good cross section of both vehicle makers and income levels among prospective buyers. CARB hasn't released further details about a program that would be longer term or in other parts of the state.

The proposed rebate would dovetail with the California's ongoing efforts to get lower-income residents to buy plug-in vehicles. Current programs require prospective buyers to prequalify by verifying their income levels through the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE), so a point-of-sale rebate would merely be an extension of that effort.

As it is, the Golden State has made solid progress towards its zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) goals. Earlier this month, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released a report estimating that the state's zero-emissions vehicle sales in 2016 were almost half of what would be needed to reach the state's mandate for 2025. ZEV sales accounted for about one in 30 new vehicles purchased in California last year and jumped 18 percent in 2016.

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