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California may expand its car incentives to include more low-income buyers

California may soon expand a program aimed at helping lower-income individuals switch to more efficient cars.

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California may soon expand a program aimed at helping lower-income individuals switch to more efficient cars.

The Golden State previously launched "cash for clunkers" programs that incentivized the retirement of older, higher-polluting cars.

But last year it also introduced the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program Plus-Up pilot, which provides incentives of up to $9,500 to low-income drivers who trade their old cars for plug-in electric cars.

Right now, that program only includes residents of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (covering the Los Angeles area) and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Legislation introduced in February could open the door to expansion of "Plus-Up" to other parts of California.

Assembly Bill 1965 calls for expansion of the Enhanced Fleet Modernization Program, with greater emphasis on disadvantaged communities.

It includes language stating that specific steps should be taken "to ensure the vehicle replacement component of the program is available in all districts containing disadvantaged communities.

The bill, which covers the state's 2016-2017 fiscal year, also calls for expanding funds for "targeted outreach" to reach disadvantaged communities.

Assemblyman Jim Cooper, AB 1965's author, previously said the legislation's goal was to expand the "Plus-Up" program to regions beyond the two where it is already available.

In its current form, "Plus-Up" provides incentives based on household income and the type of vehicle being purchased.

Households are divided into Low Income (225 percent of the Federal poverty level or less), Moderate Income (226 to 300 percent of the poverty level), and Above Moderate Income (up to four times the federal poverty level).

Income level determines the amount of incentives a household can receive for a fuel-efficient gasoline car, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or battery-electric car.

These incentives can also be combined with California's $2,500 rebate for new electric cars, or its $1,500 rebate for new plug-in hybrids.

With the statewide purchase rebates factored in, a low-income family purchasing a battery-electric car may be eligible for up to $12,000 in combined incentives.

The program also applies to used cars, and certain households can even get transit passes worth $2,500 to $4,500.

The only other current state-level incentive program that includes used electric cars is in Colorado, where the state's income-tax credit applies to any new or used electric vehicle that has not previously been registered in the state.

This article first appeared in GreenCarReports.

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