Connecticut jumpstarts electric car rebate program

Connecticut has kicked off its Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) pilot program. Drivers who purchase a new hydrogen fuel-cell or plug-in electric car can get a rebate up to $3,000.

Robert Galbraith/Reuters
An attendee looks over a BMW i3 electric car at the Electric Power Research Institute's Plug-In 2014 conference in San Jose, California. Connecticut has kicked off its Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate (CHEAPR) pilot program.

Connecticut can now count itself among the cadre of states offering incentives for the purchase of new plug-in electric cars.

And the name of its incentive program gets right to the point: CHEAPR is the suitably appropriate acronym for the Connecticut Hydrogen and Electric Automobile Purchase Rebate pilot program.

As the name indicates, it provides buyers with cash when they purchase a new hydrogen fuel-cell or plug-in electric car – although only the latter are available for sale in Connecticut right now.

The maximum rebate of $3,000 applies to cars with a minimum battery capacity of 18 kilowatt-hours, or to any fuel-cell car.

Cars with a battery capacity of 7 to 18 kWh are eligible for a $1,500 rebate, while models with less than 7 kWh of battery capacity can get a $750 rebate.

Interestingly, this means that the current 2015 Chevrolet Volt (with a 17.1-kWh battery) gets only a $1,500 rebate, but the upcoming 2016 Volt (with its 18.4-kWh pack) qualifies for the full $3,000.

Rebate applications are completed and submitted by dealers.

The program itself will be administered as part of the existing EVConnecticut effort, which so far was primarily focused on funding charging stations and general promotion of electric cars.

The range of rebates covers both all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids, although Connecticut has a somewhat limited selection of models available for sale.

Connecticut is one of the states that adopted California's emissions standards, but it did not adopt that state's zero-emission vehicle mandate.

That means "compliance cars" like the Chevrolet Spark EV and Fiat 500e aren't sold there.

The defunct Honda Fit EV was briefly offered for lease in the Nutmeg State, but given the lack of regulatory incentive, it's unlikely other compliance-car manufacturers will follow suit.

Incentives also apply only to vehicles purchased in Connecticut and registered there--which means the Tesla Model S may be excluded for the time being.

State franchise laws currently prohibit direct sales of cars by manufacturers, although legislation has been introduced to amend the rules and allow Tesla to open retail stores in Connecticut.

Interestingly, the Model S, Spark EV, and 500e all appear on the list of eligible vehicles posted on the CHEAPR website – despite their unavailability.

Funding for the CHEAPR program comes from money made available to the state as a condition of the merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR to form Eversource Energy.

The program will run until the $800,000 in available funds is depleted. Prospective buyers can check the status of funding on the CHEAPR website.

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