New York Offers Electric Car Rebates

Good news, New Yorkers: Buying a new electric vehicle (EV) just got a whole lot cheaper in the Empire State, thanks to the new Drive Clean rebates the Cuomo administration rolled out this week. The program will devote $70 million to promoting clean vehicles and reducing greenhouse gases from New York’s largest source: our cars and trucks.

In fact, the Drive Clean rebate program isn’t just good news for New Yorkers. It’s good news for the nation, too. Even as the administration in Washington seems intent on rolling back smart fuel efficiency standards that save consumers money on energy, make U.S. manufacturers leaders in the fast-changing global auto industry, and help increase their market share against Asian and European automakers with their own fuel efficiency standards to meet, New York has teamed up with a market-leading coalition of seven other states to advance plug-in electric vehicles and the benefits they offer us all. Their coalition, and its efforts to get 3.3 million EVs on their roads by 2025, can create an important counterbalance to the Trump administration’s backward-looking and dangerous plans.

Thanks to the Drive Clean rebates announced this week, New York consumers can now save as much as $2,000 on battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with the rebate depending on battery range and sticker price. (A full list of included models is available on the program’s website.) Combine the new Drive Clean incentives with the current federal EV incentive of up to $7,500, and the price reductions are very significant.

These rebates aren’t giveaways, though. To begin with, by helping to keep our energy dollars here in New York, rather than sending them out of state and out of the country, where we now spend more than $20 billion to import gasoline and diesel fuel each year, these rebates are good for New York’s economy. Companies in New York producing electric vehicle technologies, such as Leviton, PlugIn Stations Online and others, also get a boost from greater electric vehicle sales. Moreover, when states reach ambitious EV goals, even utility customers who don’t own them save money on their energy bills, too, as a recent study by M.J. Bradley & Associates demonstrates. The decrease in tailpipe emissions that result from replacing polluting cars with clean vehicles leads to improved public health and lower medical costs for everyone. And, of course, as New Yorkers who’ve lived through two devastating hurricanes in this decade can tell you, we all save money and suffer less misery when cleaner cars help make our climate more stable.

As we’ve seen with government incentives for wind and solar power, rebates are important tools that can catalyze innovation in industries where we need it most. By spurring demand, they speed economies of scale, and drive both investments in new technologies and competition in the marketplace, all of which lowers prices for everyone. Witness, for instance, the recent introduction of Chevy’s all-electric Bolt, with its 238-mile range and $30,000 after-federal-rebate sticker price. Only a few, short years ago, an EV with those numbers would have been considered a miracle. Now, it’s available at a dealer near you, or will be by September, when the Bolt becomes available in all 50 states. Supportive government policies have been a major factor in reaching that milestone. No wonder that EV sales are picking up speed, with total sales for January and February in 2017 up 62 percent compared to 2016, despite continued low gas prices.

In 2013, New York joined California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont in what’s called the Zero Emissions Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding, with the intention of getting 3.3 million EVs on the road by 2025. The Drive Clean program will help New York do its part while achieving the state’s goal of cutting economy-wide greenhouse gas pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and at least 80 percent by 2050—the amount scientists say we need to cut if we’re to avoid climate change’s worst impacts.

That plan can move the automobile market in this country just in time. With the Trump administration signaling its intent to roll back smart vehicle efficiency standards that save consumers money, create good-paying jobs, and make American companies more competitive in the global marketplace, it is good to know state governments like New York’s are finding another way forward, with funding for EVs that benefit us all.