California Rolls Out Low-Income EV Incentives Up to $14,000

The new CARB program is less restrictive and expands to more qualified residents.
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As electric vehicles become more readily available, California wants to ensure that all of its residents have the opportunity to buy one, particularly those in low-income households. The newly launched Driving Clean Assistance Program hopes to do just that by offering up to $14,000 in incentives toward a new or used EV purchase. 

Under the California Air Resources Board, DCAP appears to be an expansion of CARB’s Clean Cars 4 All program. Also an incentive project, CC4A provides a voucher to income-qualified residents who want to scrap an older, high-emissions vehicle for a lower-emissions one or use alternate transportation, such as public transit and e-bikes. 

DCAP is similar to CC4A in how it doles out incentives, but the notable difference is that DCAP will be available to air districts that do not currently offer CC4A, thereby widening the buyer pool. DCAP also has fewer restrictions in terms of what vehicle can be purchased. CC4A specifies the new car must be a PHEV or EV, while DCAP merely states a “cleaner vehicle.” This means electrified vehicles like a mild hybrid, and not just all-electric cars, would also qualify.

According to CARB, the maximum DCAP grant allowed is $12,000 toward a vehicle purchase or lease, plus a $2,000 charging incentive. The incentive can be in the form of either a prepaid card for public charging or used toward the installation of a home charger. Those opting for alternative mobility instead of buying a new vehicle will receive $7,500. Additionally, because this is a state-funded program, federal rebates can likely be stacked.

2023 Toyota Prius Prime
Toyota 2023 Toyota Prius Prime. Toyota

Qualifications are rather straightforward for a government program. Applicants must be California residents, have not previously participated in another CARB vehicle incentive progam, and have a household income of less than or equal to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. For a single person, that would be a household income of $45,180; for a family of four, the household income limit is $93,600. There is no application fee, but the program cannot be applied retroactively.

To receive the max amount, residents must live in a disadvantaged community as well as have a vehicle to swap out. For those in a community that doesn’t qualify, the purchase incentive drops to $10,000, which is still a substantial grant. Applicants without a vehicle to scrap will be limited to $7,500. The $2,000 charging incentive will still be available to all. 

To some, CARB is a four-letter cuss word, in large part for being too restrictive. Love it or hate it, though, California is experiencing fewer smog-choking days than in decades past. Cracking down on emissions was necessary to improve air quality. This new incentive program is simply another way to build on that by offering those who would normally be priced out of a hybrid or EV an opportunity to upgrade and a choice in what to buy.