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Breathe Easy, Californians: Electric-Car Rebates Survive, Cut To $2,500

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First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

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It came down to the wire, but in the end, California's program of purchase rebates for buyers of qualifying plug-in electric cars has survived the state's grim budget crisis.

Last Thursday, we wrote about the decisions facing the California Air Resources Board: How much could it really afford to allocate to plug-in purchase incentives? And what could it offer those citizens who'd already bought an electric car, but after the rebate funds were exhausted?

As it turned out, CARB approved up to $40 million in funds for the third year of the electric-car incentive program. From $15 million to $21 million of that will go to buyers of plug-in passenger cars, with the rest allocated to more efficient lower- and zero-emissions trucks and buses, plus some technology demonstration programs.

Scenes from dedication of electric-car charging station at Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA

Scenes from dedication of electric-car charging station at Creekside Inn, Palo Alto, CA

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CARB cut the maximum passenger car incentive in half, to $2,500 per vehicle, meaning there's enough cash for at least 5,500 new plug-in buyers this year.

The 500 electric-car buyers on the waiting list will also receive a $2,500 for the plug-in cars they're already driving. It's not the $5,000 they would have received under the previous year's program, but it's certainly better than nothing.

California's action does not affect the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit for purchase of an electric car. The Federal program, however, is a tax credit that doesn't kick in until you file your taxes next year, while California's program is a rebate check mailed within weeks of purchase--widely considered a more effective incentive.

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee

Enlarge Photo
The reduced rebate means that our hypothetical ideal buyer of a 2011 Nissan Leaf--who lives in one of eight San Joaquin Valley counties and works for Sony Pictures Entertainment--would now have to pay out $14,780 for that 2011 Leaf, up from a mere $12,280.

Of course, if s/he were to buy a 2012 Nissan Leaf instead, that amount would rise to $17,200, based on the 2012 Leaf's higher base price of $35,200.

Worthy of note: Both 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric cars do not qualify for the California rebate, though Chevy executives have said the Volt will be altered to qualify at some point in the future.

[Los Angeles Times, CARB]

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