Central Valley Business Times

The state may make it cheaper for Californians to buy ell-electric vehicles, under a bill approved by the state Senate.

SB 1275 would put in place an extended and improved Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which has been credited with bringing a third of the nation’s plug-in cars to California. The CVRP currently provides buyers with a $2,500 rebate for zero-emission purchases, but the program has been plagued by insufficient funding.

SB 1275 would help secure the funding needed to ensure California is the first state in the nation with one million electric vehicles, but would step down rebate levels over time as technology costs go down.

The bill zipped through the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 27-9.

As it stands heading to the Assembly, the bill would:

  • Make it easier for fleet managers to replace polluting trucks, buses, and heavy-duty tractor-trailers with clean electric ones
  • Funds Air Quality Improvement Plan grants to make the transition more affordable
  • Increases access to clean transportation in disadvantaged communities
  • Establishes car sharing programs, deploys charging stations in apartment complexes, provides access to financing options that would mean lower combined monthly car payments and fuel costs, and offers incentives for the replacement of gas-guzzling “clunkers” with new or used electric cars or vouchers for transit and car sharing.

“To clean up our dirty air, we need to make electric cars more accessible for our middle- and low-income families, not just the wealthy,” says the bill’s author, state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles.

Max Baumhefner, a clean vehicles and fuels expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, predicts that the initiative will improve access “to a cleaner fuel that’s the cost equivalent of dollar-a-gallon gasoline, which is especially important for households that spend a disproportionate share of their income at the gas pump.”

Proponents say that electric vehicles have an immediate benefit not just in terms of air quality, but also for jobs and California’s economy.

Putting one million electric vehicles on the road could create up to 100,000 additional California jobs by 2030, they claim.

“Californians shell out $70 billion on gas and diesel each year, $40 billion of which leaves the state in payments to the corporations and foreign countries that produce the oil,” said Vien Truong, director of environmental equity with the Greenlining Institute. “Transitioning to zero-emission transportation means keeping more transportation dollars — and jobs — right here in California.”