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BC reviews EV rebate after years of wealthy collecting public subsidies

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BC’s electric car rebate program is so popular that the state fund has run out of money several times over the past five years.

But there was always a nagging concern at the root of the whole venture. Are rebates actually helping ordinary middle-class British Columbia people buy EVs? ​Will it go to the wealthy who could have bought it anyway without subsidies?

This week, the British Columbia government announced it was overhauling its EV rebate program to tie rebate eligibility to income (increasing the maximum from $1,000 to $4,000).

New income limits for EV rebates

Under the new rule, if you earn $100,000 or more or live in a household that earns $165,000 or more, you’ll get a state reimbursement on your next electric, fuel cell, or long-haul hybrid vehicle purchase. You will no longer be eligible.

Energy Minister Bruce Ralston has acknowledged concerns that have gone unspoken and unaddressed for years.

“We would like to increase the amount of rebates, but we also wanted to restructure the program a bit so that the rebates reach the people who need them most,” he said.

I mean, yes. Many of those who received taxpayer-funded EV rebates over the past five years were wealthy enough to buy luxury electric cars at full price, yet he spent $192 million in public funds for the rebates. I was able to get it.

How often has this happened?

It depends on how you count.

High-income earners use EV rebates on luxury cars

A napkin calculation can be made based on rough numbers and estimates that support spending from the early days of the program in 2015.

About 41% of buyers who recorded rebates bought what they considered to be luxury electric or hybrid vehicles, including Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche.

The British Columbia government often tries to brand the program so you’re not mom or dad upgrading your station wagon to a hybrid Nissan Leaf. Most of these are high-income earners who can afford to pay his $77,000 or more for luxury-brand electric vehicles (before the government lowered his rebate cap to his $55,000 in 2019).

Again this year, 2,472 people pre-ordered their vehicles before prices hit the current $61,980 base, so most Tesla Model 3s priced above the government cap received a $3,000 EV rebate. I’m here.

New income-based rules for EV rebates will nearly stop high-income earners from receiving public subsidies for car purchases that can be made without taxpayer financial backing.

This is a good thing and is in the spirit of the program re-envisioned by Prime Minister John Horgan this year.

Still, the roughly 13,500 people the state currently deems too wealthy to qualify for the rebate could have received about $44.6 million in public subsidies for their purchases over the past five years. . They will not be able to do so again. But what has been done will be done.

New rules don’t tie company earnings to rebates

Despite the new changes, questionable areas remain in the program.

Companies, municipalities, non-profit organizations, car-sharing companies and even car dealerships themselves are eligible for rebates. Despite new income rules that ensure people get financial assistance only when they need it, there are no such requirements on business size or profitability.

When I took a closer look at the 2019 rebate stats in an article a few years ago, doctors, developers, and countless corporations scooped up millions of taxpayer rebates before the program ran out of money, helping the public. people were milked for money. Please refresh.

The government has chosen not to cut these dubious withdrawals to the rebate fund.

Does the new EV rebate rule strike the right balance?

Whether or not this bothers you depends on how urgent you consider the climate emergency, as well as encouraging high-income earners and profitable businesses to move to electricity a little sooner than they otherwise would. It depends on whether you can rationalize spending millions of dollars to do it.

Equally, opinions will be divided on whether people’s new income standards really make sense.

Eligibility for the full $4,000 EV rebate cannot exceed $80,000 for individuals or $125,000 for households.

Whether families at this level, already stymied by rising interest rates, rising house prices, rising childcare costs and rising home furnishings, can really afford a $55,000 electric car on a tight budget. is interesting. Even with her $4,000 kickback from the government.

To be fair, they’re likely eligible for an additional $5,000 in federal rebates, taking a total of $9,000 off the sticker price at the dealership. State sales tax is also exempt from EV.

It is not yet clear whether this week’s changes have struck the right balance for B.C.’s electric vehicle rebate program.

Over the years, it has helped wealthy people save a little money buying luxury electric cars. Only families with modest budgets are eligible for the rebate, even if they can’t afford an EV at all today.

Rob is a political columnist for the Daily Hive, working on some of BC’s biggest political stories. He can be caught on CHEK News as an on-air political correspondent.