Combined with the federal rebate program of up to $7,500, consumers can save as much as $10,000 off the sticker price of a zero-emission car. Plus, they qualify for the carpool lanes with a special sticker.
The state says California is still having trouble meeting clean air standards. Stanley Young of the California Air Resources Board said: "The only way we can keep our air clean and fight smog and fight climate change is to introduce more and more of these zero-emission vehicles."
Ted Costa heads the People's Advocate, a taxpayer watchdog group. He says that at a time when the state needs to pay for more pressing things, average residents who can't afford a green car for themselves shouldn't have to subsidize one for who those who probably can afford one on their own.
"We really need money in this state – we need money to fix roads, we need money for higher education, we need money for student loans. We need money for just about everything there is," Costa said.
Robert Feldman sells only Leafs at Maita Nissan. He says rebates are a good way to get car buyers to try new technology when clean air goals are so ambitious.
"It's just a long way to go, and it's the best way to get there. It just takes a little bit of extra effort in the beginning of anything that's worthwhile," he said.
Governor Jerry Brown signed an executive order a year ago setting the goal of 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles on California roads by 2025. The state is on the verge of hitting 20,000.