Thinking about getting an electric car or plug-in hybrid? There’s now an extra little incentive for customers in San Diego County.
The state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project has launched a pilot program that allows drivers to get their rebates up front and apply the money at the point of sale.
Here’s how it works:
If you buy or lease a car that qualifies under the state’s definition of a zero-emisison vehicle (ZEV), you are eligible to receive a rebate check from the state — the amount varies depending on the type of vehicle.
Under the pilot program, you can get pre-approved for a rebate ahead of time and apply the amount immediately from a participating car dealer.
So instead of waiting for the state to send you the rebate after the sale, the rebate is applied at the same time you purchase or lease the vehicle.
“For those who already know what they want … they can get the vehicle, apply the rebate at the point of sale, reduce the amount of financing and they’re off down the road,” said Chad Taylor, assistant director of clean transportation at the Center for Sustainable Energy, (CSE), the San Diego nonprofit that administers the state’s rebate program.
Called Rebate Now, the pilot program will be tested in San Diego County and if it’s successful, will be applied statewide.
Taylor said San Diego County was chosen because the metropolitan area has traditionally been accepting of clean technology and offers a good mix of economically diverse neighborhoods. In addition, since CSE is located in San Diego, the organization will have easy access to check on the pilot program’s progress.
The state’s rebate program offers price reductions ranging from $1,500 for plug-in hybrids, $2,500 for battery electric vehicles and $5,000 for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
There is also a $900 rebate for zero-emissions motorcycles.
Applications for Rebate Now can be filled out at the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project website: https://cleanvehiclerebate.org/eng/rebatenow
Once approved, customers have 14 days to use the preapproved rebate to buy or lease a ZEV. Taylor said if customers need more time, they can apply for a 14-day extension. If they still don’t buy or lease a ZEV, the pre-approval will cancel out but customers can reapply.
San Diego County customers who don’t apply for Rebate Now can still get their rebates sent to them.
The pilot program follows the same rules for eligibility the state put into place in 2016.
That year, some high-income earners were nixed from receiving rebates while more money was given to lower-income households.
The new rules eliminated rebates for those whose income exceeds $150,000 for single tax filers, $204,000 for head of household filers and $300,000 for joint filers.
The caps do not apply for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, though.
Meanwhile, people with household incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty level receive $4,500 for buying or leasing battery-electric vehicles, $3,500 for plug-in hybrids and $7,000 for fuel cell vehicles.
Three hundred percent of the poverty level translates into gross income for an individual of $36,180 or less, or a family of four earning under $73,800.
Officials at CSE think the Rebate Now program will help boost ZEV sales.
“We believe this has particular appeal to folks in disadvantaged communities, so it enables program equity,” Taylor said. “But it also enables most all Californians to participate as well.”
How San Diegans can get their clean-car rebate early, by Rob Nikolewski, The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 12, 2018.