On August 24, 200 people showed up for a Work Group Meeting for the Electric Bicycle Incentives Project held by the California Air Resources Board. It was a big turnout for a meeting held during the workday on a Wednesday afternoon. But it’s not surprising considering the tremendous interest in the program (CalBike’s interest list for the program has more than 6,600 people — scroll down to sign up).
The meeting included a lot of great feedback and some breaking news: the announcement of the program administrator. Here’s what happened and what’s next for the e-bike incentives program.
CalBike supporters make a strong showing
CalBike had little notice of this meeting, and it became clear that CARB isn’t used to its programs receiving so much interest and input from the public. The facilitators were overwhelmed by the number of comments and questions; at one point, 50 people were waiting to speak.
A big thank you to everyone who could participate in a meeting during the workday with little advance notice. We must keep the pressure on CARB to be more transparent and take more public input. Many commenters mentioned CalBike, which strengthens our position to negotiate on your behalf to create a robust and successful program.
There will be a follow-up to the August 24 meeting because there wasn’t time to take everyone’s comments. Even if you registered to attend that meeting, you won’t automatically get notified about the follow-up and future meetings. Please subscribe to CARB’s e-bike mailing list to learn about e-bike work group meetings. And sign CalBike’s e-bike list to get the latest updates and learn how you can get involved.
Program basics revealed
At the meeting, the outlines of the program became clear, though it’s not clear whether public input could change some of the details.
CARB’s current program specs:
- To qualify for the incentive program, participants’ household income is capped at 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL). That’s $51,000 for a single person and $106,000 for a family of four.
- Vouchers will be up to $750 for a regular e-bike and up to $1,500 for a cargo or adaptive e-bike. People whose income is under 225% FPL or who live in disadvantaged communities qualify for additional incentives.
- The program will support the purchase of Class 1 (up to 20 mph, pedal assist only) and Class 2 (up to 20 mph, pedal assist and throttle) e-bikes. Class 3 (up to 28 mph, pedal assist only) will be excluded.
- Participants must purchase a bike from a California bike shop or online from a company with a business location in California.
The program will launch in the first quarter of 2023. The law creating the program specified a start date of July 1, 2022, but, as a CARB administrator explained at the meeting, one to two years is the minimum needed to launch a brand new program at a state agency.
Most of the discussion at the meeting centered on the income caps. In California, 55% of the population (about 21 million people) makes less than 400% of the FPL and would qualify for e-bike incentives under the current program. The income caps match those of other clean vehicle programs administered by the Air Resources Board (Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and Clean Cars for All).
The program has $10 million in funding, which may cover an estimated 7,000 e-bike vouchers at the proposed funding levels. For perspective, CalBike’s interest list for the program currently has more than 6,600 people on it — almost enough to fill the whole program if everyone qualified.
Several people on the call expressed interest in getting help to buy an e-bike but said they wouldn’t qualify under the proposed income caps. Commenters were divided between wanting the incentives to go only to low-income households and advocating for some portion of the money to be made available to higher-income people.
E-Bike incentives administrator named
The standalone e-bike incentive program will be administered by a third party, with a single application process for all Californians. That will make the program easier to access.
E-bike vouchers through the Clean Cars for All program, which CalBike helped pass, took a long time to roll out (partly due to pandemic delays) and aren’t uniformly available. Regional air resources boards were tasked with adding e-bike vouchers to their program; some regions have the program up and running while others don’t.
CARB was considering three nonprofits to administer the program and announced during the work group meeting that it has chosen Pedal Ahead, based in San Diego. Pedal Ahead has run a local e-bike program in San Diego since 2020. Streetsblog’s article about the meeting has more background on the chosen administrator.
Next steps: second meeting, CalBike follow-up
CARB has posted a recording of the August 24 work group meeting (see below). It had already planned another work group meeting for later in the fall but will add another meeting because there was too little time to get to the public comment at the August meeting. If you can’t attend a meeting or weren’t able to comment at the last meeting, you can email feedback to the CARB at CleanTransportationIncentives@arb.ca.gov.
CalBike is following up on the meeting with a technical letter to CARB to advocate for a robust program, and we will meet with CARB staff in the coming months to help guide the program launch. Our main goal is for this first year to be an instant success, showing Sacramento that the $10 million allocated for the pilot is just a start and that e-bike subsidies should be an annual budget item. In future years, we hope to see most of the funds set aside for low-income Californians but some help provided for middle-income residents.
We’ll need your help to keep up the pressure.