Start undressing California’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, a program intended to spur the sales and leases of zero-emission vehicles, and front-page topics come into view — reduction of greenhouse gases and job creation chief among them. So when the program recorded its 10,000th rebate earlier this month, it merited some pomp.
Courtesy of the Air Resources Board
Natasha Casteel of Meadow Vista, Calif, was recognized on Friday as the state’s 10,000th owner of a ZEV. A librarian for the city of Roseville, Ms. Casteel said in a telephone interview that she used to drive a 2003 Volkswagen Passat for her 48-mile round-trip commute. Saying she wanted to “greatly improve” on that car’s fuel economy, she sought out the purely electric Nissan Leaf.
The state’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Project began in 2008 as part of a broader mission to push innovation in the transportation sector. To spur sales of E.V.’s, the state provides a $2,500 rebate on either a lease or purchase of an eligible vehicle, which can be combined with a maximum federal tax credit of $7,500.
When she learned a charging station was located essentially right outside her office door, Ms. Casteel bought the Leaf, one of the more than 15 eligible vehicles under the program. “The rebate process was very simple, because the $7,500 was provided up front to reduce the cost directly, then the $2,500 was the rebate check coming from California,” Ms. Casteel said. “It was all handled by the dealer, except for the $2,500. I just had to fill out an online form and they e-mailed me. It was easy.”
Ease of use was a critical consideration for the state’s Air Resources Board, the body charged with ensuring the quality of the state’s air. “Our goal here in California is to reduce greenhouse gases. Passenger vehicles account for about 28 percent of our gases,” Cassandra Hockenson, a spokeswoman for the board, known as ARB, said in an interview. “The purpose of the program is to get people to take that leap and buy these vehicles and see how wonderful they are and what they can do.”
“We are saying, ‘We know this is new, we know you’re not comfortable and that it’s a whole different ballgame, so we want to give you an incentive to jump into this ring and see what you think,’” Ms. Hockenson added.
The California Center for Sustainable Energy is responsible for collecting rebate forms and ensuring criteria are met. According to the center, private individuals account for 88 percent of rebate funds, with nonprofits, government agencies and businesses claiming the remainder. Roughly $16 million remains to be distributed, but the California Energy Commission has committed up to $5 million in additional financing, according to ARB.
A study by the California Electric Transportation Coalition concluded industries involved in the production of E.V.’s could create almost 100,000 additional jobs in the state by 2030.
“When we have new opportunities, we have new jobs. And the project helps people buy these vehicles, who maybe normally couldn’t, and the more people who buy them, the more the cost goes down,” Ms. Hockenson said. “And as more people buy them, we get more infrastructure.”
Infrastructure, most notably the availability of charging stations, was an important factor for Ms. Casteel in her purchase decision.
“I think people would buy more electric cars if there was more charging infrastructure, and that would really help remove any range anxiety they have,” Ms. Casteel said, echoing a sentiment expressed on Monday by Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive, in statements about his ambitions to create a nationwide network of charging stations for Tesla vehicles.
“At the library, I’m the only employee who has one, but as my husband says, ‘You don’t really want to advertise it’s an electric car, because everyone will get one and you’ll have to wait in line to charge,’” Ms. Casteel said.
By TORI TELLEM