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Should California Increase Electric Car Rebates?

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California Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco introduced a bill this week that could triple rebates for electric car buyers.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 How does a rebate of up to $7,500 sound for buying an electric vehicle? Well, a San Francisco lawmakers bill assembly bill 10 46 could triple the rebate given for purchasing a zero emissions car. The bill is an effort to help California meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals to find climate change. And as part of our coverage for the KPBS climate change desk, California state assembly men fill teen, the bill's author joins me now from the floor of the state legislature. Phil, welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:30 Thank you so much for having me.

Speaker 1: 00:31 So tell us more about how the current clean car rebates work and how they would change under your proposal.

Speaker 2: 00:37 Well, she won't clean cars. You need clean air. And right now we have a goal to get to 5 million clean cars by 2030 and we're only at 600,000 so we need to make some serious changes. And the reason we need to make those changes is because we have very strict greenhouse gas emission goals to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately in transportation, which is 40% of those emissions, they've been going up not down like every other sector and 80% of that 40% is passenger vehicles. And so most of the emissions within the transportation sector comes from you and me driving to work you meet, go to the grocery store, dropping our kids off at school. So we have to change consumer behavior on clean cars. What we've seen is two major things are moving consumers on clean cars, which is one the carpal stickers and the amount of the rebates. We are very concerned because the federal government is reducing the tax credits for the two most popular clean cars in California. The test amount of three and the Chevy Bolt, e v so part of our proposal is to really just try to keep pace with the loss of that federal tax credit. In d c they have a $7,500 tax credit, don't be going away very soon

Speaker 1: 01:55 and the bill doesn't exactly a set the amount of the rebates. How would those rebates then be determined?

Speaker 2: 02:02 Well, what we ask is we ask the air resource board to really develop a plan so we give them some flexibility. They don't think they'll be, they should be higher than 7,500 but they could definitely say, hey, we don't need that higher rebate. We could go lower, use the money better and we want those rebates to be declining over time right now, but rebate for California is 2,500 today at 2,500 tomorrow. There's not really much of an incentive to move today when people know that the rebate is going to be going down. That becomes an incentive for people to change their behavior and to do something. So what we believe should happen is you set a higher rebate level that's declined over time as we hit certain targets

Speaker 1: 02:44 and my understanding right now is that there is a waiting list because the rebate funds run out. How would your bill address that dilemma?

Speaker 2: 02:51 The bill asked to every sport to have a plan and then what we do is based on that plan, identify how much money we would need to yet in order to fund this program for a number of years. What are the ideas that we had thought is if we could borrow some money up front or securitize money up front and then pay it back over time, this would allow us to really heavily invest in the early years of the program. 50 years one, two and three and watch that investment decline over time as more and more people adopt in cars.

Speaker 1: 03:24 And currently there's a $1,500 rebate for hybrids. Would hybrid still be eligible for those rebates

Speaker 2: 03:30 at this time? Yes. What I imagined is as money gets tighter and as technology gets better, they may get phased out over time. But at this point, the hybrids that plug in hybrids that get over 25 miles, 25 miles per charge [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 03:50 and as you mentioned earlier, California's goal is to have 5 million zero emissions vehicles on the road by the year 2030 where are we in terms of meeting that goal?

Speaker 2: 04:00 Well, we're still very far. We are at 600,000 vehicles now. We've made significant progress and we've made progress with very few cars to be able to purchase right now. If you think the most popular vehicles for people to buy our trucks, minivans and SUV is, and you can't get a clean card any of those. So as more and more quick clean cars get offered in those types of bottles, I imagined adoption will increase even more.

Speaker 1: 04:24 Do you think cost is a major barrier for car shoppers?

Speaker 2: 04:27 Absolutely. And costs right now, it's very cost right now high. It's very typical that when technology is first in its early adoption phase that the costs are higher than the typical. Some other typical technology. But what you see is once people move up to that technology, you see that price come down over time. I remember a time when calculators used to cost $500 a, I remember a time when you know, cell phones just to cost, you know, 500 or a thousand dollars just for a very basic cell phones. Again, as more and more people bought, calculators bought cell phones, we saw over time that price come down significantly. Same thing with personal computers. I think Quinn Carson's going to follow that same price trajectory

Speaker 1: 05:10 and your bill would prohibit the California air resources and control board from raising taxes or using vehicle fees to pay for the program. So how would the state pay for that program?

Speaker 2: 05:20 Well, bring out the state pays for it. Out of our greenhouse gas reduction from $200 million a year to greenhouse gas reduction fund is paid for by people who pull in the industries that pollute, put money into a fund. And that fund is used to go over to screencasts. And so, uh, we can under seek to have a greater greater funding out of that fund or we can identify other types of funds to go after as well.

Speaker 1: 05:45 I'm curious if you own a clean energy car you bought

Speaker 2: 05:49 up doesn't it for over two years? I got it when they first started offering it in California and an ecstatic. I love my car. I love my car.

Speaker 1: 05:58 And a couple of years ago you proposed banning all gas powered cars. Do you think that's still a good idea?

Speaker 2: 06:03 Yeah, I think absolutely down the road that was a, what we did is you wanted to ban any new gas cars after 2014 and what you see as since we introduced that legislation years ago, more and more countries have followed suit. You have England, you have France, you have Norway, you have India. Um, you have China and Germany talking about the more and more companies and more countries. Absolutely going in that direction and I believe at some point we definitely need to move in that direction as well.

Speaker 1: 06:33 I have been speaking with state assemblyman filled ting. Phil. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 06:36 Thank you

Speaker 1: 06:37 for more coverage from the KPBS climate change desk. Go to kpbs.org back slash climate change.

Speaker 3: 06:44 Okay.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.