In San Mateo County, California, which is about 20 miles south of San Francisco, Peninsula Clean Energy is offering a $4,000 incentive for qualifying residents who buy used plug-in hybrids (and EVs — we’ll get to that).
The electric vehicle purchase incentive is part of a collaboration with Peninsula Family Service, which has offered the DriveForward program to local residents for some time to help them afford their own vehicles. The used hybrid vehicle program allows qualifying residents to receive financial assistance when they purchase one of the eligible vehicles. This type of vehicle can also help drivers save money by using less fuel. Peninsula Clean Energy answered some questions about the incentive for CleanTechnica.
Is this the first time you are running the program? Who had the idea and what prompted you to try it?
Yes, this is the first time Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) is running the DriveForward Electric program. PCE wanted to create a program that would help low and moderate-income San Mateo County residents who may not otherwise be able to purchase a clean electric vehicle.
The suggestion to partner with Peninsula Family Service came from the Executive Director of one of our local social service organizations, Anita Rees of the Pacifica Resource Center. The DriveForward program already had a good track record helping residents purchase reliable used cars through affordable vehicle loans and financial counseling. We found it to be a natural partnership to expand that program to also promote electric vehicles. It’s an example of how Peninsula Clean Energy as a Community Choice Energy agency is uniquely positioned to listen to and respond to our community’s creative ideas for local energy programs and to build local relationships. As a public agency that is accountable to the people of San Mateo County instead of to shareholders, we ultimately re-invest all our proceeds into local energy programs to save our residents’ money at the same time as we achieve climate action goals and serve our customers’ needs in innovative ways.
Are all used plug-in hybrids on the market eligible for the program and do the vehicles have to be purchased within San Mateo County?
Vehicles do not have to be purchased in San Mateo County, but they must be purchased at a licensed dealership, not through a private party or Craigslist. Trusted local dealerships that have worked with Peninsula Family Service for years on their programs are now getting interested in EVs because of Peninsula Clean Energy’s new incentive.
Is the program necessary because there are some lower-income people who would like to purchase a used plug-in hybrid but can’t afford to?
Yes, this program is designed to help San Mateo County residents who may not otherwise be able to afford a plug-in electric vehicle. For example, we interviewed Ana Barajas Santiago as she picked up the used 2016 Chevy Volt she had just purchased through the program. Ana is a Preschool Teachers’ Assistant, a student, and a mom. She is dedicated to helping the environment and wants to set a good example for her 6-year old daughter. She researched car reviews and knew she really wanted a Volt. “Without the program I wouldn’t be able to purchase this wonderful vehicle that I now have,” she told us. The video is posted on DriveForward Electric program web page.
Why is the program focused on used plug-in hybrids and not used all-electric vehicles?
This program offers incentives for both plug-in hybrids and all battery electric vehicles. However, PCE has been focused on plug-in hybrids because we want our residents to get a clean vehicle that fits their needs. Many households have only one vehicle. If they drive longer distances or if they rent and may need to move to a location without consistent access to charging, a plug-in hybrid provides more certainty in being able to meet their needs. As longer-range battery electrics enter the used vehicle market, we may place a greater emphasis on all-electric vehicles. However, if a client is confident an all battery electric vehicle would fit their needs, they can receive PCE’s incentive.
How long will the program run?
The program will run on a first-come-first-serve basis until 100 vehicles are sold. PCE may choose to renew funding to continue the program.
Plug-in hybrids typically are more fuel-efficient than conventional gas-powered cars. Is the program also designed to help the participants save money by using less fuel?
Yes, in addition to helping residents get into cleaner vehicles, the program is designed to help participants save money on fuel since electricity is so much cheaper than gasoline. Even when the electric range is exceeded, the plug-in hybrid will use less gasoline than conventional gas-powered vehicles which mean owners will continue to save on fuel. In addition, plug-in vehicles save money on maintenance.
How do San Mateo County residents apply to the program?
San Mateo County residents first attend a Peninsula Family Service financial empowerment workshop. Residents can sign up for a workshop via PCE’s website at PeninsulaCleanEnergy.com/DriveForwardElectric or by contacting PFS at firstname.lastname@example.org or (650) 403 – 4300 ext. 4105.
After attending the workshop, participants can apply for Peninsula Family Service’s loan and if approved, can shop for a plug-in hybrid vehicle. The Peninsula Clean Energy incentive is then given directly to the dealership as a vehicle down payment on behalf of the customer.
About how many people do you expect to participate in the program?
While we cannot predict how many people will participate in the program, PCE’s target is to reach 100 participants over the next couple of years.