Massachusetts Electric Car Rebate Program to End in September

Published August 19, 2019

A rebate program designed to spur electric vehicle sales in Massachusetts is about to end.

Funding for the MOR-EV program is running out, forcing officials at a state Zero Emission Vehicle Commission meeting to announce they will extend the program one last time to cover electric vehicle purchases made through Sept. 30, 2019.

Massachusetts set a goal of having 300,000 zero emission vehicles (ZEV) on the state’s roads by 2025, and the rebate program was intended to prime ZEV sales.

The rebates have fallen badly short of achieving the intended goal. Since the program began in 2014, only 14,000 electric vehicle buyers have claimed rebates, totaling $30 million, and the state is less than 7.5 percent of the way towards its ZEV sales goal.

Subsidizing the Wealthy

Massachusetts’ electric vehicle program never made sense, says Baruch Feigenbaum, assistant director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation.

“I think the reason they’re cutting the program now is the Republican governor, Charlie Baker, has never really been a fan of it,” said Feigenbaum. “And there also may have been a realization among some folks if subsidizing electric vehicles ever made sense, which I don’t think it did, it certainly doesn’t make sense now.

“The thing about electric vehicles is they tend to be bought by wealthier individuals who don’t need subsidies in order to afford them,” Feigenbaum said.

And Then There Were Cronies

Electric vehicle and ZEV rebates are examples of pure cronyism, says Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Research.

 “When a small cadre of politically connected companies convinces a governing or regulatory body its product is of unique social value, the result is the phenomenon of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs,” McGillis said. “Massachusetts’ public has essentially been saddled with a ZEV subsidy program that facilitates transactions between politically connected companies and their wealthy potential customers.

“By bringing this program to a close, the Baker administration is taking a simple step toward a more balanced and fair market in auto sales,” McGillis said. “The U.S. Congress would be wise to follow Massachusetts’ lead and allow its own electric vehicle tax credit program to phase out as scheduled.”

‘Still Room for Rationality’

Massachusetts is demonstrating common sense by allowing the ZEV program to lapse, says David G. Tuerck, president of the Beacon Hill Institute.

“That the legislature would recognize this program as the boondoggle it is suggests there is still room for rationality in Massachusetts when it comes to the subject of climate change,” Tuerck said. “As the Beacon Hill Institute pointed out in 2017, the program was mostly a giveaway to the state’s wealthiest residents.

“Now, if only the state can start applying similar logic to other costly environmental programs,” said Tuerck.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.