Oregonians have until June 3 to participate in the popular electric vehicle rebate program

Oregonians looking to buy or lease a new or used electric vehicle have about two weeks to take advantage of the state’s popular rebate program before it ends for the year on June 3.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program offers two types of rebates to residents looking for a qualifying zero-emission vehicle, one of which is income-based. The program has become increasingly popular over the past few years, as the shift from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles continues.

This popularity has led to confusion, at times, for Oregonians looking for electric vehicles. Funding limits led DEQ to only offer rebates within limited windows. Many who bought or leased electric vehicles during the rebate period last year had to wait several months to be reimbursed due to state budget and tax collection cycles. It could happen again this year.

FILE - A car is parked next to an electric charging station in downtown Portland, Oregon, March 31, 2011.

FILE – A car is parked next to an electric charging station in downtown Portland, Oregon, March 31, 2011.

Rick Bomer/AP

The agency suspended the program last May because it ran out of funds. The program receives at least $12 million annually, or 45% of the state’s vehicle lien tax, a tax paid by car dealerships. With the growing popularity of electric vehicles, it’s not enough to offer rebates to every interested driver.

So far, DEQ has processed more than 650 rebate requests from people who buy or lease electric vehicles in 2024.

As of Monday, more than 985 applications were under review. The agency works with the nonprofit Center for Sustainable Energy to process applications, a process that can take two weeks to two months to complete.

DEQ expects to have enough funding to reopen the program for two months this year, said Erica Timm, EV rebate program coordinator.

“We realize that the short time will be difficult for people,” she said. “We needed to look at our financing and the possibility of being able to pay all of those rebates for at least the vehicles purchased during that period.”

Related: Oregon’s popular electric vehicle rebate program has run out of money and remains on hold

This year’s two-month electric vehicle rebate window was determined after considering the number of people who received a rebate last year, as well as the volume of applications the agency received and anticipated funding, Tim said.

“We’re a little more than halfway through the program, and it looks like we might run out of money again,” she said. “If that happens, what we will do is we will open a waiting list like we did in 2023.”

Tim said the agency expects to create a waiting list in the next week or two.

“We are moving through our funding faster than we expected, based on our modeling, which was based on last year’s participation rates,” she said. “People seem excited to see the program reopen and are taking advantage of it.”

DEQ has $8 million for rebates in this round

Before reopening the program in April, DEQ issued nearly $85 million in rebates to about 30,000 applicants.

The agency receives vehicle franchise tax funding in two installments each year. The first half is delivered earlier in the year and the second half in the fall. Tax fund deductions, program management, and community engagement and outreach.

For 2023, DEQ received more than $15 million, and had about $3.5 million in funds carried over from 2022. Last year, the agency put about 1,700 approved applicants on a waiting list. They filed their applications on time, but the agency did not have the funds to pay their rebates. In the fall, the agency received an additional $3.4 million from the vehicle lien tax and paid out enough rebates to cut the waiting list to 560.

In February of this year, the agency received the first payment of the tax for 2024 and paid the remaining rebates from the previous year’s waiting list.

Related: Oregon is temporarily suspending its popular electric vehicle rebate program

After setting aside about $1.6 million for administrative costs and community outreach engagement, the agency has about $8 million in rebates during this round of funding.

DEQ is looking for more funding sources to pay for electric vehicle rebates, and they could be available as soon as next year, Tim said. One program is that he is eyeing a federal grant aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“If funded, these funds will likely be available in 2025 and will focus on providing additional funding for Charge Ahead rebates,” she said.

The agency is also stepping up outreach efforts in low-income communities to raise awareness about the Charge Ahead rebate and answer questions about electric vehicles, Tim said. The income-related deduction is available to families with annual income from $51,000 to $251,000 per year, depending on family size. It aims to increase electric vehicle purchases for low-income families.

The agency is also conducting surveys to better understand the barriers these communities face in accessing electric vehicles and how to improve its program.

Low-income drivers are frustrated by the suspension of rebates

This year, the agency rolled out coupons for pre-qualified orders for the Charge Ahead discount. The coupons can be used at participating dealerships for both new and used electric vehicles, so buyers know they’ll receive a discount up front and won’t be put on a waiting list.

The agency has awarded nearly 1,400 pre-qualifying vouchers, 184 of which were redeemed this year.

Starting and pausing the program is confusing for many people, said Jeff Allen, Fourth’s executive director. Forth is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing equitable access to electric transportation. Allen said many people have reached out to Forth to express their frustration when an EV rebate is suspended, or when they don’t know it has reopened to take advantage of the rebates.

Related: Electric vehicle sales rise in Oregon; State officials expect big numbers in 2023

He said it was particularly difficult for low-income families considering purchasing an electric vehicle.

“These people often don’t have a lot of comfort or flexibility when they buy a new car,” he said. “Their car broke down, and they need a car now, and they’re really relying on this discount to be able to make these vehicles affordable.”

Allen said Oregon lawmakers need to step up and invest more in the program. He said it was one of the easiest ways to address climate change, and could bring immediate benefits to low-income communities most affected by climate change.

Oregon residents must buy or lease an electric vehicle before June 3 to qualify for rebates this year.

DEQ officials encourage residents to check the list of participating auto dealers that offer rebates at the point of purchase. The agency also encourages low- to moderate-income residents to get pre-approved for a Charge Ahead rebate coupon, which can be used at the point of purchase or lease of an eligible electric vehicle.

(tags for translation)Electric vehicles | Oregon | environment

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