On April 26, 2023, CARB held another well-attended work group meeting to gather feedback on the details of its Electric Bicycle Incentive Project. One of the major takeaways is that the statewide program launch is pushed back yet again: Most Californians won’t be able to apply for a voucher until at least the third quarter of 2023.
Here’s what else we learned at the meeting. We’ve included the video and presentation below, in case you want to learn more.
New details about program implementation
As it has throughout the process, CARB has taken feedback from prior work groups and revised the program based on stakeholder input. For example, recipients can now use part of their incentives to purchase safety gear. The only gear listed was helmets, and CARB specifically excluded lights, reflective gear, and racks. The program requires eligible bikes to come with lights (most e-bikes have built-in lights), so that makes sense. However, based on feedback, we’re hopeful that cargo racks will also be an allowed expense. CalBike would like to see locks included, since a secure lock for an e-bike can be costly.
Participants will have 30 days to purchase a bike and redeem their vouchers and may ask for a one-time extension if they need more time. CalBike is advocating for extending that 30-day window, since researching and buying an e-bike is often a lengthy process.
Vouchers will be limited to one per person, but there is no household limit. Participants will be required to own the bike for at least one year.
Here are some of the other details we learned.
What do we know about the e-bike incentive application process?
We still don’t have all the details about the application process. CARB promises that a guide will be available online ahead of program launch so people interested in participating will have time to prepare.
CARB did share an outline of the application process as they envision it currently. Applicants would submit proof of income and residency, choose the bike they want to buy, take a 90-minute online bike safety and environmental class, then find out if they qualify for a voucher.
CalBike strongly objects to the process as currently outlined, and we have sent a letter to CARB detailing our recommendations. Our concerns include:
- It will be hard to choose a bike without confirmation of the voucher amount because the person won’t know how much money they will need to come up with to complete the purchase.
- While CalBike supports e-bike safety education and is excited for the resource being developed as part of this program, we feel that education should be a resource, and that any requirement of a lengthy class may serve as a barrier to many trying to access the incentives. We particularly object to requiring participants to sit through any content that isn’t directly related to safe operation and storage of an e-bike.
- Requiring two extra steps before applications are vetted will further disadvantage applicants with the least time and/or access to a computer.
- Because many Californians are more comfortable in a language other than English and those languages are diverse, an education component will inevitably exclude many potential participants. For comparison, the US Census is conducted in 12 languages in California.
We plan to meet with CARB to discuss these issues, and we’re hopeful that advocacy and lessons from the soft launch will lead to a better application process.
June soft launch
The first phase of the program will be a soft launch in June. With a budget of $300,000, the soft launch will provide 20-40 incentives to applicants in each of four communities that have been historically underserved by CARB programs:
- Barrio Logan, San Diego
- Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco
- California Native Tribal Governments
The soft launch will allow CARB and the administrator to test systems and get feedback on what works and doesn’t work before opening the program statewide.
When will the statewide program launch?
We don’t know exactly when California’s incentives will become available. However, we have heard that the soft launch is expected to take at least two months. Expect a full launch sometime in the fall, after CARB and the administrator have worked out glitches in the application process.
We realize this program has taken an excruciatingly long time to come online. Another reality check: Demand may far exceed the number of incentives available. If you’d like help to purchase an e-bike, check out this list of local programs.
Is anyone already in line to receive an e-bike voucher?
Several people who spoke at the April meeting shared that they had submitted an application for an e-bike voucher last year and wanted to know if they were in line for an incentive. CARB clarified that no one is in line for a voucher yet. Everyone will need to apply once the window opens, later this year.
We don’t know if there will be another work group before the soft launch in June or before the statewide program launch. If you sign up for our email list, we’ll let you know about future meetings and any other information on the status of the program and the application process.