California considers refocusing EV incentives toward low-income “gasoline superusers”

California is considering targeting its EV incentives toward low-income drivers who use an outsized amount of fossil fuels.

The California Assembly Transportation Committee last week passed a bill, AB 2816—reported by Green Car Congress—that directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the state emissions regulator, to base incentives on the amount of a driver’s gasoline or diesel consumption, and to give higher amounts to low-income applicants.

If passed by the full California assembly, this new incentives system would go into effect in 2024.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

The amount of fuel used by an applicant’s vehicle would be calculated based on publicly-available mpg data for a given model and odometer readings.

This framework builds on the concept of “gasoline superusers” outlined by advocacy group Coltura in a 2021 report. That report said one in 10 United States drivers burn 32% of gasoline in U.S. light-duty vehicles, estimated to be more than the bottom 60% of gasoline users combined.

At least one other state has looked at refocusing EV incentives toward these “superusers.” Washington State lawmakers recently approved a $450,000 budget appropriation to study the biggest gasoline users. Lawmakers aim to see how these drivers could be convinced to switch to EVs, how much fossil fuel use would be displaced if they did, and how much money these drivers would save, among other questions.

Nissan Leaf charging at EVgo fast charger in Baker, California

Nissan Leaf charging at EVgo fast charger in Baker, California

Low-income people could use the operating savings from EVs vs gasoline—with a little help needed in affording them in the first place. Surging used-EV prices have made the latter much harder than before.

Pushing EV adoption beyond early adopters is an important factor in combating climate change. A 2020 study found that electric cars were already cleaner than gasoline vehicles in 95% of the world. An unlike gasoline or diesel cars, the lifetime carbon emissions of EVs keep getting better as the grid mix shifts toward renewable energy.

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