Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster Promotes Electric Cars By Leasing Zero-Emission 2013 Chevrolet Volt
By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
April 09, 2013 - To continue a program that has successfully issued approximately 20,000 rebates to individuals, businesses and organizations that have purchased zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), the California Air Resources Board (ARB) and the Clean Energy Commission (CEC) recently allocated a combined $10.5 million. That influx of cash is expected to extend the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project until next year’s funds are available.
The need for additional funding is attributed to increasing demand for zero-emission and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) in California. It was widely reported that the PHEV Toyota Prius was the top-selling vehicle in California last year, and automakers are continuing to produce clean vehicles to satiate demand. According to ARB, California accounts for about 40 percent of all purchases of PHEVs nationwide.
And while the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project is just one of several opportunities for buyers to bring down the cost of their purchase – among factory and federal rebates – the program supports Gov. Jerry Brown’s March 2012 executive order mandating the state government to support commercialization of ZEVs with the goal of having 1.5 million of them on California roads by 2025.
The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project was part of AB 118, which passed in 2007. New vehicles that operate on ARB-certified battery electric, PHEVs and fuel cell power are eligible for rebates if purchased on or after March 15, 2010. Individuals, businesses, nonprofits and government entities based in California or are affiliated with California may apply. Owners must possess the vehicle for a minimum of 36 months, either own or lease. AB 118 programs are funded though motor vehicle and vessel fees, as well as smog check and license plate fees, according to ARB.
The program launched in 2009 and is scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2016. “This is one of the programs whose funding would be extended by reauthorization bills SB 11 and AB 8,” according to Melanie Turner, spokesperson for ARB. Proponents of reauthorizing funding for the program point to the numbers: March marked an all-time high of 2,364 rebates issued and more than $4 million spent in the month, according to Turner.
“That broke the previous monthly record by 500 rebates, or by about 30 percent,” she said in an e-mail. “Since the release of PHEVs in early 2012, March also marked the first month the program had more rebates for ZEVs than for PHEVs. And, on April 1, the program broke the daily record, with 140 rebates given.”
According to Colin Santulli, manager of the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project, approximately $52.6 million has been allocated to the program to date: $48.1 million from ARB and $6.5 million from CEC. Most of the rebates are issued to individuals and business owners, Santulli told the Business Journal in an e-mail. “Public entities and NGOs [non-government organizations] make up less than one percent of total rebates,” he said.
Buyers in Long Beach are well versed in what rebates are available for ZEVs, according to Cabe Toyota’s Internet Fleet Manager Kenny Rossi. He told the Business Journal that individuals seeking the all-electric Toyota Rav4 or the PHEV Prius know what rebates are out there. “They mention what rebates they want to take advantage of,” he said. “Those buyers have been studying for a while and are pretty educated on electric vehicles.”
Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, who leased a 2013 Chevrolet Volt last year, was fluent in rebate options for ZEVs. He should be, though; Foster is a self-proclaimed “tireless advocate of electric vehicles,” and was the only mayor driving an electric car for quite some time.
Prior to the Volt, Foster drove an EV Rav4 for 11 years. “I drove one when I was at Edison (Foster is the former president of Southern California Edison) and I bought one when I left,” he told the Business Journal. “I’ve been an electric vehicle user for 12 years.”
Foster sold his Rav4 last year because it was going to need a new battery pack, and he said he couldn’t justify spending $12,000 or $15,000 on a 12-year-old car. The mayor couldn’t say enough about his new Volt – “It’s the best of both worlds,” he stated. “It gives you 42 miles all-electric. When you use up that 42 miles of electric power, it automatically switches over to a gasoline-powered engine. You don’t feel any difference, and combined with the electric and gas you’ve got about 350 miles of range. If you need more, you just fill it up again.”
At the request of Rossi, we asked Foster why he opted for the Volt over a new Rav4. “I had what is commonly known in the industry as range anxiety,” Foster said. “I had a 75-mile range on the Rav. Some of the newer ones have 100 miles. When you get close to the end, you get a little nervous. This thing is great. I can drive it anywhere. I can take it to the desert.”
Foster leased the Volt for 36 months in anticipation of newer technology coming online in the next three years. He’s had the car for six months, and in that time he’s put 3,180 miles on it and only used 18.8 gallons of gasoline. “That’s just at 170 miles per gallon,” Foster said. “I had it up over 250 miles per gallon for a while, but I took a trip out to Riverside and I took a trip to Dodger Stadium and Downtown L.A., so you’re on gas part of the time.”
While Foster is jazzed about his ZEV, he said he is proud to set an example as mayor to promote electric vehicles and sustainability. “I am a strong advocate of electric vehicles because fairly soon we’re going to have at least 33 percent of the electric power produced by renewables,” Foster said.
“The equivalent dollars per gallon is about $1 per gallon when you drive an electric car, so you save money. But more important than anything else, you reduce fuel use dramatically. That increases our national security, it reduces air pollution . . . and if you could wave a magic wand and tomorrow convert the fleet of vehicles to like this, you would never have to import any petroleum from parts of the world that are dangerous. It’s much better from a national security standpoint and from an environmental standpoint.”