Interested in an electric car? Here is a guide to some of the incentives and what to look for

How do you know if an EV is right for you? We've broken down some of the different models and incentives that might be available.

ByDave Kunz KABC logo
Thursday, April 28, 2022
Interested in buying an EV? Here are some incentives, what to look for
Zero-emission car sales have soared in the last 10 years, but how do you know if an electric vehicle is right for you? We've broken down some of the different models and incentives that might be available to help you through the process.

CALIFORNIA -- More electric cars are available now more than ever. Are you looking to ditch the pump for the plug?

More specifically, would an electric car meet your driving needs? If you're inclined to quickly answer "no," here's a revealing test you can do:

For a week or two, make careful notation of how many miles you drive each day including commuting, shopping or family activities. You might be surprised that you don't drive as many miles in a single day as you think you do.

An April 2021 AAA driving survey found the average American drives about 30 miles per day. Those living in rural non-metro areas drove - on average - a little over 35 miles per day.

Every new electric car on the market can easily make it at least 100 miles on a charge. An increasing number can go over 200, and some can easily do more than 300 miles before having to be plugged in.

California Dreaming: The Road to Zero - How attainable are CA's zero-emission transportation goals?

As for the cost of the cars themselves, many are pricey, but a number of models are now available starting at about $40,000. Plus, most studies show that operating an EV costs far less each year than a comparable gasoline car.

But what about long-distance travel?

Mazda has a unique solution to road trips for their new MX-30, a fully electric compact SUV.

Aimed at city dwellers, its range is on the low side by today's standards, at about 100 miles. But anyone who buys or leases one will have access to other Mazda vehicles with engines 10 days per year for three years. You can drop off your Mazda EV at the dealership and drive off in a different model for a weekend getaway.

READ MORE | Mazda's 1st electric car has unique features and lots of ownership incentives

If you're not ready to make the leap to a fully electric car, a plug-in hybrid can be a great transitional technology.

They can usually go between 25 and 35 miles on battery power, but then you have an engine to take you from coast-to-coast if need be.

"Many people, in using plug-in hybrids, they initially buy it for both technologies and find out that the electric part of it meets most of their daily commute needs," said John Swanton, an air pollution specialist at the California Air Resources Board. "It's a great way to get started in this technology."

Several models of plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs, are available, like the Ford Escape and Hyundai Santa Fe plug-ins. They're in the sweet spot of vehicles that most people are buying anyway, compact SUVs.

If you want to go pure electric but feel priced out of the market, remember there are hundreds of thousands of EVs that have been sold over the past 10 years and get traded in on new ones.

Shop for a bargain at a dealership that will offer a warranty on the battery and electronic components.

You might not get some of the incentives the newer electric cars come with, but you're also likely to get a bargain.

Still not convinced? You probably have a neighbor, relative or co-worker who drives an EV.

Ask them about their experiences, good and bad. Sometimes electric car drivers make the best salespeople. Who knows, you could end up being one as well.

Electric vehicle supporters expanding outreach to Rural America

Below is a breakdown of three different programs designed to help with the cost of buying an electric vehicle. More information about incentives can also be found at

Clean Vehicle Rebate Project

The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project offers $1,000 to $7,000 for new and eligible zero emission cars, including electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. You can get these rebates after you buy the car.

For cars bought before Feb. 24, 2022, only single filers making a gross annual income of $150,000 or less, heads of households making $204,000 or less or joint filers making $300,000 or less are eligible.

For cars bought after Feb. 24, 2022, income caps are $135,000 for single filers, $175,000 for heads of household and $200,000 for joint filers.

Those who have household incomes less than or equal to 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible for an increased rebate amount of up to $2,500, depending on when you bought the car.

Clean Vehicle Assistance Program

The Clean Vehicle Assistance Program is a grant-based program for new or used cars that can only be redeemed from approved dealerships. Applicants must receive an approval before purchasing the car.

Eligibility is based on income, only those with household incomes less than or equal to 400% of the federal poverty level are eligible.

The application process can take three months or longer. Then you have 35 days to redeem your grant at an approved dealership.

This program also allows buyers to redeem a charging grant as well after the purchase of a vehicle.

Clean Cars 4 All

Clean Cars 4 All is an income-based scrap-and-trade program administered through local air districts.

Similar to other programs, these incentives are available to households with incomes at or below 400% of the federal poverty level.

CC4A provides funding to low-income Californians living in and near disadvantaged communities to scrap their older, higher polluting car and replace it with a new or used advanced technology car.