Illinois’ electric vehicle rebates may be scaled back

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(The Center Square) – Legislation in the Illinois General Assembly would make it more difficult to qualify for a rebate on an electric vehicle purchase. 

In January 2023, rebates of up to $4,000 for EVs and $1,500 for electric motorcycles became available in Illinois. In the first round, Illinois’ EV rebate program cost taxpayers $19 million. That is nearly 4,900 purchasers of EVs getting $4,000 rebates. Of those, only about 10% were low-income individuals, despite the program prioritizing such applicants. Among those granted rebates, nearly 300 were luxury models costing up to $125,000, as The Center Square previously reported. The second round of the program was budgeted at $12 million.  

State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, said as it stands, the program is not sustainable, especially with the state’s budget issues. “It, unfortunately, is the direction we need to go right now with our budget constraints, but hopefully in the future we will be able to offer this to more Illinoisans,” Williams said during a House Revenue and Finance Committee hearing last week. 

Laura Roche, chief of staff at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, said there simply isn’t enough money. “Over the last 12 months there has been about 32,000 new registered EVs in the state,” said Roche. “If we were to give all of those a rebate it would be about $128 million and we had $12 million to work with this year, so this is our proposal to transition it to a low-income only program.

House Bill 5286 would change those who qualify for the EV rebate program to a lower income threshold of 80% of the median household income, or about $42,000. About 12% of applications for the program self-identify as low income. 

EV sales have slowed in Illinois and the rest of the country. The high cost and charging anxiety are reasons for many.  Now there is word the Chinese automaker BYD has launched an EV called Seagull for about $12,000.  Tariffs on imported Chinese vehicles will keep the Seagull out of the U.S. for now. 

Josh Witkowski with the motorcycle advocacy group ABATE of Illinois said electric motorcycle sales aren’t doing much better. “We are seeing a sudden contraction,” said Witkowski. “We’ve seen two companies go bankrupt already this year, and it’s a lack of sales that is occurring that is unexpected.” 

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