Electric Vehicles

Bill in Calif. aimed at boosting EVs calls for new rebate system

California lawmakers soon could decide the fate of ambitious legislation aimed at jumpstarting the state's use of electric vehicles.

AB 1184, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, could usher in a ten-fold increase - to 1.5 million - in the number of EVs on California roadways in 2025 and 5 million by 2030 by providing a new rebate system for buyers. The state had just over 150,000 registered electric cars at the end of May.

In introducing the bill earlier this year, Ting called electric cars "the future" of not only California but of the United States as well. "We have reached a tipping point and it's time to give the electric car revolution an aggressive boost," he said. "California's ambitious goals to reduce climate altering emissions require transportation electrification. We need an incentive program to get everyone behind the wheel of an electric vehicle."

Indeed, state officials estimate that transportation accounts for about 37% of the state's carbon emissions.

Currently, California offers a $5,000 rebate for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, $2,500 for electrics and $1,500 for plug-in hybrids.

The pending legislation would provide up to $3 billion for higher rebates, although precise amounts are among the details to be worked out if and when the bill passes and is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

As of mid-August, the bill's fate remained uncertain. AB 1184 is in the Senate Appropriations Committee which is facing a September 1 deadline on whether to approve it and send it along for further votes.

If the bill passes the Senate, the Assembly would have to concur. September 15 is the final date for the Legislature to vote on any bill during its 2017 session.

The question of funding has been paramount in ongoing discussions on the bill. Supporters want to earmark proceeds from California's cap-and-trade program to help pay for the enhanced EV rebates.

California lawmakers in July passed legislation that extends the state's greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program. With the legislation, the cap-and trade program will remain a centerpiece in California's effort to cutting its GHG emissions by at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Brown signed the legislation into law in July.

The bill creates the California Electric Vehicle Initiative. It would provide point-of-sale rebates to EV purchasers, with the rebate value scaled down as state EV sales hit certain milestones until 2030.

The goal, supporters say, is to create a self-sustaining market for EVs by that time when half of the state's power is set to come from renewable sources under provisions of the existing RPS.

Critics have questioned whether any ratepayer funds would be used to help finance the rebates. The answer appears to be no.

Steve Chadima, senior vice president of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association active in California and a bill supporter, said in a Friday interview the bill contains no language providing for any ratepayer support. But he said AB 1184 will be amended in about a week to include specific language barring any ratepayer support.

Advanced Energy Economy believes it's crucial to pass the bill this session. Even if the bill is approved and signed into law, "it will take another year of regulatory hearings to work out the details of the bill," he noted, delaying its actual implementation until the fall of 2018.

That is just before US automakers are scheduled to release a new line of electric vehicles designed to improve driving range, considered one of the impediments to EV sales in the country so far.