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New York offers $2,000 rebate for electric car purchases

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New York state is offering a point-of-sale rebate of up to $2,000 for the purchase of either a new plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle that has a range of 120 miles. The money comes from the state’s new $70 million “Drive Clean” initiative.

The point-of-sale element is of particular importance, said Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association.

“This actually reduces the price of the car directly,” Schienberg said. “That really helps out the financing part for a consumer and brings the prices really in line with traditional powertrain vehicles out there now.”

On top of the state rebate, the federal government offers a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicle purchases. The $70 million for the Drive Clean program was approved last year by the state Legislature. The state had a deadline of April 1 to start the program.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the initiative as another step in his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state 40 percent by 2030. He said the transportation sector is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

“These highly anticipated rebates will make electric vehicles more affordable and accessible and support this state’s nation-leading efforts to build a cleaner, greener New York for generations to come,” Cuomo said in a press release.

The rebate is designed to favor cars capable of driving a longer range on a single charge. Cars with an all-electric range greater than 120 miles qualify for the full rebate. Cars with an all-electric range of 20 miles or fewer qualify only for a $500 rebate.

It also cuts the rebate for more expensive vehicles. Cars with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price above $60,000, such as the Tesla Model S, are only eligible for a $500 rebate.

The rebates are available to all New York residents who buy one of the 35 eligible car models through participating car dealers. In Westchester, BMW of Mount Kisco, New Rochelle Chevrolet, Nissan City in Port Chester and Ray Catena BMW of Westchester in White Plains are all participating.

While sales for electric vehicles have been increasing, the cars still only represent about 1 percent of the U.S. car market. Electric vehicles represent just under 2 percent of all registered cars in Westchester, according to state DMV data.

“They’re a new addition to the market and it can take a substantial time to take off when technology changes,” said Andrew Goldberg, sales manager at Nissan City in Port Chester. Nissan offers the Leaf, which has an all-electric range listed at 100 miles that qualifies for a $1,700 rebate.

Goldberg said the range is also a factor, as people often have needs that extend beyond the 100 miles. But he added that having the rebate in place can help convince customers. He predicted a significant boost in electric car sales in the next year.

That was a message that Schienberg said he heard from auto dealers at the association’s recent board meeting. One dealer told him he had been able to sell three cars in a week as a result of the rebate.

“There’s more and more product coming online that is exciting and I think consumers will look at, especially with these type of rebate programs or incentives from the federal government,” Schienberg said.

Schienberg said his group now will work to raise awareness about the rebate program for both dealers and customers.

The initiative is administrated by The Center for Sustainable Energy, a California-based nonprofit that also manages similar rebate programs in Massachusetts, Connecticut and California.

Out of the $70 million allocated to the program, $55 million will go to the rebates. The other $15 million will go to improving awareness of electric cars, installing more charging stations and “other efforts to put more electric cars on New York’s roadways.”

The state has about 1,600 electric vehicle-charging stations, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, 36 of which are in Westchester. The goal through the Charge NY initiative is to have 3,000 charging stations in the state by 2018.

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