SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON -- The federal tax credit for electric car purchases has an end in sight, but California doesn't want demand for the zero-emission vehicles to meet the same fate.
The state, long a champion of electric cars, is considering a bill to provide rebates to EV buyers at the time of purchase, reducing the sale price right as customers drive off the lot. The bill, which does not specify the size of rebates but proposes giving more cash to low-income buyers, looks to set aside as much as $3 billion for the incentives.
If passed, the program could help bridge the "valley of death" looming on the horizon for EV demand as federal rebates begin to wind down, said Max Baumhefner, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council's clean vehicles program. "The conditions are right for a tipping point to occur but with uncertainty about the state's purchase rebates and the prospect of federal tax incentives expiring, it could tip in the wrong way."
The plan -- dubbed the California Electric Vehicle Initiative -- could be a key step in encouraging the purchase of battery-powered vehicles by bringing the price after credits more in line with similar gasoline-fueled models. Gov. Jerry Brown has set a goal of 1.5 million zero-emission cars on state roads by 2025 and already offers clean vehicle rebates for the purchase of models including the Chevy Bolt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S and X, but customers have to apply for those credits after the purchase is complete, a possible deterrent.