Still time to drive an EV off the lot then apply for a rebate over the next few weeks.​ See which vehicles are eligible. Photo by Storyblocks.

Dec. 18, 2020

Attention grownups nestled all snug in your beds with visions of electric cars dancing in your heads: If you dash to a car showroom right now, the money you save will jingle all the way home.

But be sure to act soon if you want an EV under the tree. A cash rebate offered by the State of Texas on battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles is set to expire on Thursday, Jan. 7. 

“This monetary incentive has been integral in helping many make the decision to go electric,” said Bailey Muller, senior air quality planner for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “As North Texans continue to focus on improving air quality, it is important to look at ways everyone can contribute. Reducing vehicle emissions is one way to help clean our air. Electric vehicles are an effective tool because they produce no emissions.”

The Texas Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program allows battery-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle buyers to get a maximum $2,500 rebate for a purchase or lease term of at least three-years, and a minimum $832.50 rebate for a one- to two-year note. This being Texas, the program also includes models powered by compressed or liquified natural gas, and the rebates for those vehicles are twice as generous as those for battery-electrics or plug-in hybrids. For example, CNG- or LNG-fueled vehicles get a maximum $5,000 rebate and a minimum $1,665 rebate for the same loan or lease terms. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, about as common as unicorns, get the same rebates as BEVs and PHEVs.

A “How to Apply” tab on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s website contains a downloadable application form and instructions on signing up for the incentives. At the time of this report, there were 871 electric/plug-in hybrid/hydrogen vehicle rebates still available to be redeemed on a first-come, first-served basis. You must buy or lease your car before applying for the rebate.

In addition to the Texas incentive program, many new EVs and PHEVs are still eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, meaning your savings could add up to as much as $10,000. (Qualifying for the federal program requires you to buy, not lease, the vehicle.) For manufacturers that already have sold more than 200,000 EVs, the tax credits begin dropping by half in stairstep fashion until they disappear. For that reason, federal incentives for General Motors EVs have dwindled to $1,875, but those cars are still among the more than 90 vehicles eligible for the full Texas rebate. Most of the big (and some obscure) manufacturers are represented on the Texas list. 

As of now, the low end of the new-EV market starts at about $31,000, with a lot of worthy cars clustered in the $35,000 to $45,000 range – all before rebates and dealer perks are applied.

Because vehicles eligible for the Texas rebate must be sold or leased in the Lone Star State, all Tesla models are excluded, as they’re sold exclusively online, and Tesla has no formal dealerships. Sitting in your robe in Mesquite or Midlothian ordering your Tesla on a laptop doesn’t count – you’re still buying it from out of state. Considering that Tesla owns more than 80 percent of the U.S. EV market, its omission from the Texas rebate list is notable. 

With barely a toehold in the U.S. market – currently about 3 percent – EVs may seem like an odd little niche today. But most automakers worldwide – including in the U.S. – have either announced or initiated plans to transition from internal-combustion to battery-electric vehicles. Likewise, a growing number of countries are preparing to implement bans on the use or sale of internal-combustion vehicles, several before the end of this decade. 

The transition to electric cars is inevitable. But it won’t be hard. The travel range of EVs is already starting to overlap that of gas-powered vehicles – 250 miles is now the expected standard for mid-priced EVs, with more than 400 miles available on at least one high-end model. Those figures are constantly being revised upward with improvements in battery technology, software and motor efficiency. As of March 2020, there were 25,000 EV charging stations and 78,000 outlets across the United States. That number is growing at a rate of about 60 percent per year, meaning you can travel far and wide in your EV – maybe even over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. (Sorry.) 

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