April 22, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Bay Area air district will pay you up to $9,500 to swap your old car for an electric one. Here’s how.

Tired of that old clunker? Ready to junk it for a sleek new hybrid or electric car? Or even an electric bike?

Bay Area air officials on Wednesday announced a new round of funding for a program that pays residents up to $9,500 to trade in older vehicles and replace them with newer, cleaner-burning ones.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has $8.3 million in new state funding to extend its “Clean Cars For All” program. The idea is to make it easier for people of modest means to buy electric and hybrid vehicles, reducing pollution, particularly in neighborhoods that receive high amounts.

“Not only is transportation the largest source of air pollution in the Bay Area, it accounts for 40% of our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Cindy Chavez, a Santa Clara County supervisor who also is chair of the air district board.

And although the Bay Area, like much of California, has seen smog levels drop steadily over the past 50 years as environmental regulations have reduced pollution from factories, cars and power plants, there are still lots of communities with high levels of asthma and other respiratory diseases, particularly those near freeways, oil refineries and other pollution sources.

In the past electric vehicles have been out of the reach of many low-income people.

“If we are going to be able to address this issue we have to include low-income communities,” Chavez said.

One older car from the 1970s or 1980s can emit as much tailpipe pollution as 50 modern vehicles.

The air district has two high-profile programs to replace older vehicles. The first, known as the Vehicle Buyback Program, pays Bay Area residents $1,200 to scrap their car, SUV or light truck. The vehicle must be in running condition and be a 1997 model or older. People who take the money can spend it on whatever they want.

Since 1996, that program has retired more than 90,000 cars, vans, pickup trucks and SUVs. For each pre-1997 vehicle removed from Bay Area roads — vehicles that don’t have modern emissions controls — an estimated 75 pounds of air pollution is prevented from being emitted into the air annually.

To learn more about that program, or sign up for it, go to www.baaqmd.gov/vbb.

The other program, which was re-launched Wednesday, has been around since 2019 in the Bay Area but ran out of funding until Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the new state budget in recent weeks. That program, known as Clean Cars For All, is funded by money from the state’s cap-and-trade program, which requires polluting industries to buy permits to release greenhouse gases, and then uses the money to fund programs to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change.

The Clean Cars For All  program pays $5,000 to $7,000 for people who want to buy a used or new hybrid vehicle, as long as it is no more than eight years old. Grants for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, battery electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles range from $5,500 to $9,500. That’s on top of federal and state tax credits and rebates available on the purchase of many zero-emission vehicles. Air District grants of $7,500 also are available for public transit passes, e-bikes and car sharing.

To be eligible, residents must live in the Bay Area and meet income criteria. Single people earning $51,520 a year or less are eligible. The limit for a family of four is $106,000 a year.

Participants also must live in one of the 76 ZIP codes in the Bay Area the air district has selected. Those communities include areas with higher levels of air pollution and other factors, like lower household income or education levels. They include parts of Oakland, Richmond, San Jose, Redwood City, San Francisco and other areas among the 176 total ZIP codes in the Bay Area.

People who participate in this program must turn in a vehicle of model year 2005 or older, registered in the Bay Area for two years and running. The funding they receive from the air district must be used to purchase an electric, hybrid or other clean car, or e-bike or transit passes. For more information or to sign up, go to www.baaqmd.gov/cleancarsforall

An Oakland non-profit, GRID Alternatives, also is assisting people interested in the program. It can be reached at 855-256-3656, or [email protected]

“The benefits of renewable energy — clean air, great jobs, lower fuel and energy costs — mustn’t be limited just to the privileged,” said Arthur Bart-Williams, executive director of GRID Alternatives.

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