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Rebates Shrinking For Electric Vehicles

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Aired 7/22/11

California's $5,000 rebate for new owners of electric cars is no longer available. That's pushing up the cost of buying an all-electric vehicle.

— San Diego car buyers looking to purchase a new all-electric vehicle are no longer getting an automatic $5,000 discount, but a drained California rebate program was partially revived yesterday by the State Air Resources Board. The panel voted to add more money after it ran out of money last month.

A waiting list for rebates has grown to more than 500 people. Regulators will spend between $15 million to $21 million dollars on the next round of rebates, depending on how much is collected from smog abatement and vehicle resigration fees. Those already on the waiting list will get first priority.

Electric car buyers were getting $5,000 rebates, but the new rebates being offered this fall will only be $2,500. Plug-in hybrid and electric motorcycle buyers will get smaller rebates.

There are already several thousand Nissan Leafs in the San Diego area and other major manufacturers like Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Honda are poised to introduce electric cars here soon.

But the higher cost is not expected to keep drivers away.

All electric Nissan Leaf
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Above: All electric Nissan Leaf

"There's still a lot of buzz for the pure electric cars," said Joseph Gottlieb, President of the Electric Vehicle Association of San Diego. "And we're starting to see the charging station infrastructure going up. And a lot of people who own a Leaf or want to own a Leaf are starting to give a little sigh of relief on the range-anxiety issue. So now, there are all sorts of places you can go and charge up."

In addition to the Nissan Leafs driving on San Diego streets, there are a number of Chevy Volts, a plug in hybrid that can also run for a time on all-electrical power. Gottlieb remains optimistic that high prices will not douse the enthusiasm for the technology.

"Folks are buying the Volt at $40,000, so I think people are going to bear the cost," Gottlieb said.

State and federal rebates brought the cost of the $34,000 Leaf to about $23,000. Coupled with a price hike and the rebate rollback, the out-of-pocket cost is now closer to $27,000. The federal $7,500 rebate on the purchase of an all-electric vehicle is still available.

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