The state still has nearly $1.3 million to dole out in rebates for electric cars. And it has just four months to do so.

The rebate program Hawaii launched last August for the purchase of new electric vehicles is set to end in September. It can knock up to $4,500 off the price of a new electric car, and can be combined with a federal tax credit. As of this month, the state still had $1.28 million in funds remaining.

State officials say the slow start is tied to the limited supply of electric vehicles in Hawaii. But they are hopeful more rebates will be issued as more electric cars come to market in the islands.

And while it’s a possibility the rebate program will be extended, a decision hasn’t been made, said Maria Tome, renewable energy program manager at the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, which oversees the rebate program.

If the rebate program ends with a surplus of funds, Tome said the money could be diverted toward other renewable energy programs at DBEDT, including, for example, installing photovoltaic systems on state buildings.

Using previously appropriated federal stimulus money, the state offers electric vehicle rebates of 20 percent of an EV purchase price, up to a maximum of $4,500. Rebates for so-called electric vehicle supply equipment are available up to 30 percent of the charging system cost, including installation, up to a maximum of $500.

A total of 36 vehicle rebates and 38 charger rebates have been paid out to date, totaling $121,819, according to Tome.

Tome said the small inventory of “new, commercially available” electric vehicles in Hawaii — a requirement for the rebate — has limited the rebates paid out.

And not everyone appears to be taking advantage of the rebate.

Nissan has sold and delivered 75 all-electric Leafs in Hawaii as of this month, according to Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association.

Hawaii residents showed the highest interest per capita in the car last fall when Nissan started taking pre-orders. The company said it had taken 300 pre-orders in Hawaii. It had an additional 1,004 interested residents on standby for the car.

Meanwhile, Mitsubishi has pre-sold 92 of its i-MiEV units in Hawaii, but the car is not yet eligible for the tax rebates.

To qualify, vehicles must be on the list of vehicles approved by the IRS as eligible for a federal tax credit, formally called the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit.

Only three of the seven qualified vehicles on the IRS list are available in Hawaii through dealers, including the Nissan Leaf. Two more vehicles — the Chevy Volt and CODA sedan — are expected to be available through Hawaii dealers this fall.

The terms of Hawaii’s program say: “For the purposes of this rebate program, vehicles will not be eligible for rebates until they are included on the IRS list.”

EVs Eligible for Rebate and IRS Tax Credit

Make Model Dealer in Hawaii?
CODA Automotive CODA sedan No
GM Chevy Volt No
Nissan Leaf Yes
Smart USA Smart Fortwo Yes
Tesla Motors Tesla Roadster No
Think Electric Vehicles Think City No
Wheego Electric Cars Wheego LiFe Yes

Combining the state’s rebate and the federal tax credit for EVs can help knock off $12,000 from the cost of a new standard model Nissan Leaf, representing about a 36 percent discount off the $33,720 MSRP.

The rebates can be claimed by Hawaii residents, businesses, government agencies and nonprofits for electric vehicles that will be used in the state. Rebate applications are available online.

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