In an effort to get and keep more used cars in its service area, a community utility provider in California's San Mateo County, between San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, is offering its own incentive of $4,000 for qualifying buyers of used plug-in cars, the company announced at the "Future of Clean Transportation" event last week.
Like a few such programs around the country, it helps remedy an issue: Not everyone can afford a Tesla. Not everyone can even afford a new car.
That can make it difficult to spread clean transportation to lower-income populations. And while vehicles bought with new-car inventives eventually trickle down to households with lower budgets, used-car buyers aren't often eligible for any tax credits or rebates.
The program is run as part of Peninsula Family Service's Drive Forward program, which helps low-income buyers afford cars with low interest loans. The program is open to individuals who either live or work in San Mateo County and earn less than $48,560 a year, or families of up to eight who make up to $169,520.
It focuses on plug-in hybrids, rather than pure-electric vehicles, because many of those families can afford only one vehicle, which has to meet all their needs, including out-of-town trips, and because many of those buyers rent their homes and may not be able to move an EV charger with them if they have to relocate.
Buyers who want a pure EV and are convinced it can meet their ongoing needs can choose one, however.
“Used plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can provide affordable and reliable transportation for all members of our community who need a car to access better jobs or opportunities,” said Jan Pepper, Peninsula Clean Energy CEO. “Electric cars deliver additional savings to drivers by reducing maintenance and fuel costs compared to a gas-powered car.”
The used car has to be bought from a licensed dealership, many of whom in the area have systems set up to work with Peninsula Family Services' low-interest loan program. The $4,000 incentive goes to the dealership as a down payment on the car.
The company is offering just 100 of the incentives, but says funding may be renewed beyond that.
Several utilities offer incentives for new EV or plug-in car purchases because it helps them sell more electricity, especially at off peak times when it doesn't cost them as much to provide it. On a state basis, one such example is Oregon's Charge Ahead program, which gives qualified low-income households a $2,500 cash rebate towards the purchase or lease of a new or used EV (but not a plug-in hybrid). The program also mirrors one in Ontario, Canada, which offers provincial residents a $1,099 (Canadian) incentive on used EV purchases.