Calif. gives money to swap clunkers for electric vehicles and other clean cars 

Source: Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, May 29, 2015

California is giving money to residents who get rid of polluting cars and buy ones that use less gasoline or no gasoline at all.

The Golden State yesterday launched a pilot program advancing the effort. It’s funded by $4.8 million in proceeds from California’s cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions. By state law, that money must be used on endeavors that further the goals of climate law A.B. 32.

Under the new program, a low-income family could receive as much as $12,000 toward the purchase of an electric car. Residents in areas considered disadvantaged also qualify.

“What’s not to like about a program that cuts greenhouse gases, cleans the air and helps low-income families in the most polluted neighborhoods afford the cleanest, most fuel-efficient cars?” Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a statement. “And, as icing on the cake, it will put money in their wallets by slashing what they spend at the pump.”

It takes place against the backdrop of several state actions pushing clean cars.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in a 2012 executive order called for 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on state roads by 2025. Earlier this year, Brown said he wanted the state by 2030 to cut in half the petroleum use from cars and trucks.

S.B. 535, a law from state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D) that was passed in 2012, mandates spending one-fourth of California’s cap-and-trade funds on efforts that benefit disadvantaged communities, with 10 percent directly helping those residents.

Meanwhile, the Charge Ahead California program, passed under de León’s S.B. 1275, seeks to get to 1 million ZEVs from what right now is about 95,000 on state roads, according to state Air Resources Board (ARB) data. That’s out of about 24 million total registered passenger vehicles.

To hit that number, the law requires ARB to develop a plan to meet the measure’s goals. The air board must create paths to help lower-income residents qualify for loans.

The state’s Air Resources Board next month will consider turning the car replacement pilot program into one 10 times as large, with more incentives available.

Larger incentives for lower incomes

The car replacement program offers help in buying cars, using a sliding scale for incomes, with larger cash amounts available for families with the lowest incomes who also choose to buy the cleanest cars. The financial help ranges from $2,500 to $12,000, depending on income and type of replacement vehicle.

The low-income level of eligibility includes those with a household income equal to or less than 225 percent of the federal poverty level, which for 2014 was $53,663 for a family of four.

The incentives aren’t only for electric vehicles. Consumers can opt to replace their polluting car with a more fuel-efficient gasoline-powered car, a conventional hybrid, a plug-in hybrid or an electric car.

The money will be doled out through the South Coast Air Quality Management District — charged with cleaning the air in large parts of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties — and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Californians can also apply to get up to $2,000 for an EV charging unit at their home and an additional $1,500 and $2,500, respectively, for purchasing or lease of a new plug-in hybrid or electric car from another state program called the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.

Alternatively, residents who decide to scrap an older car and don’t replace it can earn public transit passes worth $2,500 to $4,500, depending on their income.

To launch the program, de León yesterday handed over keys for a 2013 Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid to a Stockton, Calif., family. The family had received a $9,500 incentive for that car and financed the remainder, about $12,000, said Tom Knox with Valley Clean Air Now, the nonprofit that runs the new vehicle program for the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

The family had been spending about $125 per month on recurring repairs of their 1984 Ford Ranger, which had repeatedly failed the state’s required smog tests. The family will put that amount they’d been spending toward payments on the hybrid, de León’s office said. The family’s fuel costs will go to $83 a month from $245.

The event followed the crushing of the family’s old car.

“If we’re going to clean our air and fight climate change, we must teach electric cars to speak Spanish and expand access to clean-air vehicles to all communities in California,” de León said. “The Charge Ahead Initiative will not only clean our air and environment but will also put more money for rent and groceries in the pockets of families trying to lift themselves out of poverty.”