A state program that aims to make clean vehicles more accessible to California drivers will soon implement increased incentives for low- and moderate-income consumers.
At the same time, the program will institute an income cap restricting the eligibility of relatively high-income green car buyers.
Eligible vehicles include the Ford Focus Electric, Tesla Model S, Toyota RAV4 E and the BMW i3.
The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, administered by the San Diego-based Center for Sustainable Energy for the California Air Resources Board, said rebates for all types of eligible light-duty passenger vehicles will increase by $1,500 across the board, effective March 29.
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Current rebates cover a wide range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles ($1,500), battery electric vehicles ($2,500) and fuel cell electric vehicles ($5,000).
The increased rebates will apply statewide to vehicle purchases or leases.
The list of eligible vehicles includes the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, Toyota Mirai, BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Toyota RAV4 EV, Chevrolet Volt and the Honda Fit EV.
To qualify for the increased rebates, applicants must have household incomes less than or equal to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, ARB said the gross annual income limit is $35,640, and for a household of four, it’s $72,900.
ARB noted that, when combined with the $7,500 federal tax credit for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles, individual car savings for low- and moderate-income buyers under the new eligibility requirements will range from $10,500 up to $11,500.
“This increase in incentives for lower income families will help to ensure that more California drivers, especially those living in communities most impacted by air pollution, can benefit from driving and owning the cleanest vehicles,” said ARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols. “And more ultraclean and zero-emission vehicles on our roads mean cleaner air for all Californians.”
Also effective March 29, consumers with relatively high incomes will not be eligible for CVRP rebates on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles.
ARB said that includes annual incomes of $250,000 for single tax filers, $340,000 for head-of-household filers and $500,000 for joint filers. ARB said income levels will be determined by amounts reported on federal tax returns.
ARB said the income caps will not apply to fuel cell electric vehicles, which represent less than 1 percent of CVRP applications and qualify for program rebates of $5,000.
Rebate applicants are required to report income on CVRP applications, and random income-verification checks will be made.
ARB approved the upcoming changes in June 2015, under provisions of the Charge Ahead California Initiative established by Senate Bill 1275, authored by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.
Since 2010, CVRP has issued more than $291 million in rebates for more than 137,200 vehicles, according to CSE.
ARB said additional clean-vehicle rebates based on income eligibility are available in designated disadvantaged communities in the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The incentives and the project are part of California Climate Investments, which use proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide other benefits.