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Washington Launches EV Rebate Program: What You Need to Know

Updated: Jun 11


As part of its ongoing efforts to promote sustainable transportation, Washington State will launch an electric vehicle (EV) rebate program this summer. Aiming to make EVs a more affordable option for up to 8,000 low-income residents, the program is designed to help drive the transition away from traditional gasoline-powered cars. The program kicks off in August as part of the state’s broader strategy to reduce carbon emissions and support clean energy.

An electric charger logo on a road

A game changer for low-income residents

The new EV rebate program is specifically designed to assist residents earning 300% or below the federal poverty level. This equates to an annual income of less than $45,180 for a single person or under $93,600 for a family of four. Eligible participants can receive a $5,000 rebate on a new EV or $2,500 on a used EV, applied directly at the time of purchase from a dealer. Additionally, the program offers up to $9,000 off a new EV lease and $2,500 off a used EV lease, with the maximum incentive available for leases of three years or longer.

“Washington state is already a leader in EV adoption,” said Governor Jay Inslee, “but many more people interested in ditching the gas pump may think they can’t afford to do it.”

As things stand at the moment, they’re probably right. With the average transaction price for an EV being approximately $53,000, saving the planet isn’t nearly as affordable as it needs to be. We need salvation at a discount and Inslee’s EV program aims to help deliver that.

Combining state and federal incentives

Washington's rebate program can be combined with the existing $7,500 federal EV tax credit, potentially making EVs even more affordable. What’s more, EV purchases in Washington are exempt from sales tax, offering savings of up to $15,000 depending on the vehicle's price.

That said, the federal tax credit has stringent eligibility criteria, currently applying to only 10 out of 49 EV models. Nonetheless, the combined state and federal incentives still present a substantial financial benefit to consumers.

Addressing economic and environmental goals

The $50 million allocated by the Legislature’s general fund for this rebate program is not just a financial boost for low-income residents but also a crucial part of Washington's environmental strategy. The state Department of Commerce estimates that the program could cut up to 24,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, significantly impacting the state’s transportation sector, which is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019 alone, gasoline vehicles accounted for 16.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in the state.

Equity in EV adoption

A Tesla on a highway

Mike Fong, the Director of the Department of Commerce, emphasized the program’s focus on equity. “Most federal rebates and incentives lean toward supporting more affluent, more wealthy communities and individuals,” he said. “Where we see that there is still some challenges in adoption … [is] from communities of color, from low-income communities about whether or not this product is available for them. We’re here to say … it absolutely is.”

Leasing vs. purchasing

While leasing offers the highest rebate of up to $9,000, it comes with caveats. Standard lease agreements typically limit annual mileage to between 10,000 and 12,000 miles, with excess mileage charges of $0.25 per mile, which could be restrictive for some drivers. With the program’s $50 million fund sizable—but finite—leasing may not be the best long-term strategy.

Program specifics and challenges

To qualify for the rebates, vehicles must be fully battery-electric with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) below $90,000. This threshold includes high-end models like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Tesla Model S, broadening the range of eligible vehicles. However, the requirement for participating car dealerships to either exclusively sell EVs or operate multiple locations in the state might exclude smaller, local dealerships.

Broader clean energy initiatives

Washington’s commitment to clean energy extends beyond this rebate program. The state recently announced over $156 million in funding for rooftop solar and solar energy programs targeting low-income households. Additionally, $85 million in grants have been allocated to support nonprofits, electric utilities, and public agencies in installing thousands of EV chargers.

Future implications

These initiatives coincide with significant legislative developments. This November, Washington voters will decide on the state's landmark carbon pricing program under the Climate Commitment Act. This act mandates major polluters to either reduce their emissions or purchase allowances, gradually decreasing the number of allowances to increase pressure on industries to decarbonize.

EVs for All

An EV being charged

Although it may be finite, Washington's EV rebate program nonetheless represents a welcome investment in both economic equity and environmental sustainability. By making EVs more accessible to low-income residents, the state not only supports cleaner transportation but also ensures that the benefits of the green revolution are shared more broadly.

As GM and other automakers pivot towards electric vehicles, programs like this will be critical in accelerating the transition and achieving zero-emissions goals. With these combined efforts, Washington is setting a powerful example of how to nurture inclusive and impactful climate action.

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