Bill sweetens deal for more California electric car buyers

In an effort to shrink California’s carbon footprint, San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting announced a new bill Wednesday that would put thousands of dollars back into the pockets of car buyers who choose electric vehicles.

In a press conference outside City Hall Wednesday morning, Ting stood in front of his own Chevy Bolt EV — plugged into a charging station — to promote AB 1184. If passed, Ting’s bill will allocate $3 billion toward rebates for car buyers, programs to help low and moderate-income consumers, and the installation of a network of charging stations.

Ting said the bill would be a big step to help reach Governor Jerry Brown’s 2012 executive order to get 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles onto California’s roadways by 2025.

Ting said:

“As Donald Trump wants to go back to the future and bring back coal and gas and take us back to a time where we are polluting the air. …  Our clean vehicle initiative here in California, AB 1184, wants to ensure that we will have clean and green transportation, that is cheap and accessible for everyone, and ensure that California will be an environmental leader.”

California currently offers up to $2,500 in rebates to buyers of electric cars, in the form a check in the mail. The federal government also offers a tax credit of up to $7,500.  The new bill would offer similar incentives, but according to Ting, be more financially stable through a continuous allocation of funds, rather than requiring annual appropriations like the current program.

Ting said the bill would take effect in phases. Initially it would include plug-in hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius Prime or Chevy Volt, as well as fully electric cars such as the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model X.

Ting said:

“For the first couple of years we will include plug-in cars, but then phase them out to only include 100 percent electric cars.”

The current program states an individual must earn less than $150,000 a year to be eligible for the state rebate.

Chief Operating Officer at NextGen Climate Daniel Lashof said:

“We think it is really important for the rebates to be at the point-of-sale. …  And it is hard to do an instant income verification right then and there, so we are still trying to figure out the best way to get the incentives to low-income customers who need them.”

Ting said there are 300,000 electric cars currently on California roads, but with these subsidies he hopes that sales will go up.

Steve Chadima, Senior Vice President of Advanced Energy Economy said:

“Things have changed a lot in the past few years. …  Range anxiety that people may feel is getting better with the better the cars get.”

Chadima said that change in driving behavior and range issues is only a couple issues that need to be addressed to get more people in electric cars.  Another issue that has been raised is how to get more charging station in communities.

Brian Maas, President of the California New Car Dealers Association – who drives a BMW X5 plug-in-hybrid – said:

“Until we make (charging stations) as ubiquitous as gas stations there is going to be a challenge to get people to convert. …  In order to have the wide ranging acceptance of zero-emission vehicles, we are going to have to deal with the conundrum of the amount of chargers, visibility of chargers, and the length of time it take to charge an electric car.”

According to a report by the California New Car Dealers Association, 10,466 plug-in-hybrids and 13,804 full electric vehicles have been sold in California so far in 2017.

Maas said the bill’s incentives are key, and that the incentives will lead to more care sales.

If the bill passes, the $3 billion in subsidies will start to be used for every eligible person who buys an electric car, but when the money is gone so are the rebates.  The hope of the lawmakers is that as the demand for electric cars go up the price of the cars will go down, so even if the subsidies are gone the price will be affordable for everyone.