Good luck getting a California rebate on your new electric car

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Sam Dudley of Encino knows that California government has gone all in on zero-emission vehicles. So has he. He’s all about cutting back on greenhouse gases.

In May, Dudley splurged on a new electric car, a metallic black Chevy Bolt EV LT. He loves it.

But now it’s July, and the after-school program director, 35, wonders when the state will make good on the EV-incentive rebate money it owes him.

He figures he’s due $4,500. He might have to wait until next year for a check to arrive, he said a rebate program representative told him by phone. And, he was warned, he and thousands of others might not get back as much money as promised, or might not receive any money at all.

“They’re not making this easy for the everyday person who is living in California,” Dudley said.

He’s not alone. Dudley’s name sits on a rebate wait list with about 8,000 other California EV buyers.


The long delay might seem counterintuitive. California is the national champion in zero-emission vehicle promotion and air quality regulation. Much legislation has been enacted to encourage the transition to electric transportation, and many billions have been spent.

(Just how many billions is surprisingly hard to ascertain, owing to the wide dispersal of accounting data across various agencies. State Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) has complained that trying to find out is “an Easter egg hunt.”)

Gov. Gavin Newsom even ordered a ban on new sales of internal combustion passenger cars and trucks by 2035.

But the state rebate programs that aim to make zero-emission vehicles more affordable to Californians have been plagued over the years by erratic funding. Rebate coffers are often left empty for weeks or months at a time, forcing qualified car buyers to draw on reserves of their own patience as the state gets its funding act together.


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