Bay Area man finds out state canceled his $7,500 EV rebate because he filed 1 day too soon

ByKarina Nova and Renee Koury KGO logo
Monday, March 11, 2024
CA man finds out state canceled his $7,500 EV rebate for filing early
State canceled EV buyer's rebate for filing one day too soon, and no one told him until it was too late to fix as funds ran out six months later.

PETALUMA, Calif. (KGO) -- Sales of electric vehicles are surging in California as motorists take advantage of tax credits and rebates that make EVs more affordable. But a state-funded rebate program was so overwhelmed it ran out of money last fall as thousands were still applying.

One Bay Area man was furious when he found out the state had canceled his application for a $7,500 rebate without telling him... It wasn't because he applied too late - but because he applied one day too soon.

"That's exactly why I'm so frustrated," said Johnathan Seminoff, a Petaluma local.

Seminoff was counting on a $7,500 rebate to help pay for his Tesla Model 3 without breaking the family budget.

"It was part of our logic in moving forward with buying an EV," said Seminoff. "We ran the numbers, we talked it over."

MORE: Taxes 2024: 7 On Your Side, experts to answer viewer questions during live Tax Chat on Friday

He applied for the rebate through the state's Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, which offers the incentives as California pushes toward a goal of "electric-only" car sales by 2035.

"We live in the right area, we have the right income, as long as we purchased the vehicle, filled out the application, submitted it to the Clean Air Vehicle Program... 99.9% sure we would qualify," he said.

So Seminoff went ahead and bought this brand new Tesla last July. Then he immediately applied for the rebate, as officials were warning the program could soon run out of money. The state was getting thousands of rebate applications every month.

"For sure there was a lot of paperwork required... access to our W2s, tax records, lending agreement," Seminoff said.

MORE: Will solar-powered vehicles ever be a thing? A California company looks to make it reality

Steve Fambro, co-founder of California-based Aptera Motors, joined ABC7 News to talk about the future of solar-powered electric vehicles.

He submitted all the documents, and waited for his money.

And waited.

The program did run out of funds, and stopped taking applications last November.

Seminoff figured his rebate was still being processed.

"It was my birthday morning... I thought, 'Oh what a great birthday present, they're gonna tell me they're releasing my money" Seminoff said.

MORE: PG&E CEO proposes using electric cars to send power back to grid to prevent blackouts

PG&E's CEO Patricia Poppe has come up with an "unconventional" idea, using electric cars to send excess power back to the grid to prevent blackouts.

Seminoff got an email from the rebate program in January. There was no rebate.

"They said your application has been canceled. And my immediate response was, wait a second..." he said.

Officials told him his application was dated on July 28, one day before the purchase went through on July 29. Turns out Tesla didn't process the paperwork until after midnight the day he signed the papers.

And by rule, rebate applications must be turned in after the purchase is complete, not before.

"We're canceling you based on that...and that was astonishing. Astonishing," said Seminoff.

What was worse, the application had been automatically canceled as soon as he applied back in July - but no one had notified him.

Now, six months later, it was too late to correct the mistake.

The funds were gone.

"To me, this is government gone awry," said State Senator Bill Dodd (D - Napa).

Senator Dodd criticized the way the program handled his case.

"You apply one day early so you're gonna reject it because of that, they should have sent an automatic email back," said Sen. Dodd.

The California Air Resources Board, which oversees the rebate program, said the agency cannot make exceptions even for a minor mistake, even if he was qualified.

A spokesperson said Seminoff wasn't notified in time to correct the date because the program was overwhelmed with applications, telling 7 On Your Side: "Staff was processing upwards of 16,000 applications a month. Unfortunately that meant a delay in Mr. Seminoff receiving updates."

"There's no excuse for that," said Sen. Dodd. "They should have realized this onslaught was going to come and staffed up for it."

"I may be just a drop in the bucket here, but this doesn't seem fair to anybody," said Johnathan Seminoff.

MORE: Apple cancels work on electric car project, reports say

The rebate program is now closed, and it's possible thousands of applicants missed out on a rebate because funds ran out in November.

Also some EV buyers say they are having trouble with claiming the federal tax credit for EV purchases in 2023. The IRS requires specific paperwork filed in a timely way. If you have trouble, contact us at 7 On Your Side.

Take a look at more stories and videos by 7 On Your Side.

7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

You may also email 7OYS@KGO-TV.COM.

Please note the address uses the letter "O", not zero. Be sure to include your full name, email, street address, and phone number.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live