British Columbia

Maxing out on electric vehicle rebates: How one man is trying to save big on a little car

Keishin Tamaki figures if he maxes out all the rebates, he could wind up paying just $4,000 for his new EV — but there are several catches with his plan.

Keishin Tamaki figures he could wind up paying just $4K for a new EV — but there are several catches

Vancouver IT professional Keishin Tamaki wants to take advantage of both federal and provincial rebates when he takes delivery of a new single-seat electric vehicle. But there's a catch — several, actually. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When Keishin Tamaki plunked down a $250 deposit to preorder a funky and futuristic electric vehicle back in 2016, he fully expected to be forking out the rest of the $19,888 sticker price upon delivery.

But thanks to three different electric vehicle rebate schemes that have since come online, Tamaki figures he could now be in a position to save big on the purchase — maybe as much as $16,000 through three incentive programs.

You read that right: $16,000 back on a $20,000 purchase. In other words, total out-of-pocket expense for his brand new EV: $4,000.

"I just wanted a car," said Tamaki, an IT specialist in Vancouver. "But now that these rebates have come in, I wouldn't say I'm so much on a mission, but I'd like to see it happen — that would be really cool."

The Electra Meccanica Solo has a battery range of 150 kilometres, is highway capable and has a top speed of more than 130 km/h. However, it's currently not eligible for two of the three EV rebates available in B.C. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Cool? Yes. Likely? No.

Because in Tamaki's case, there's a catch. Actually, several. 

Production delays 

For one, to qualify for EV rebates you first have to buy an EV. 

Tamaki's vehicle of choice — a red, three-wheeled, single-seat Solo produced by Vancouver-based Electra Meccanica — still hasn't arrived despite the original 2017 target. 

Electra Meccanica CEO Jerry Kroll pitched the Solo on CBC's Dragons Den. (CBC/Dragons Den)

The company is dealing with production delays and, according to CEO Jerry Kroll, an ongoing process to certify the vehicle with Transport Canada.

"These things, they don't happen overnight," Kroll said.

Problems aside, Kroll remains fervent in the belief that the Solo is destined for Tesla-like success, calling it a "people, planet and profit" game-changer, especially in the U.S. where the company is focused.

"The neat thing is, 83 per cent of Americans commute by themselves in a five-person gas car. That's 140 million prospective customers in the United States, which we are already certified for," Kroll said. 

"If you're going to fight global climate destruction, you've got to start with the people who are receptive and forward moving."

The Electra Meccanica Solo electric vehicle is currently in the process of being certified by Transport Canada. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Tamaki is now hoping his car arrives this fall. Even with the delays, he has zero buyer's regret. 

"There's no other vehicle like it, and I'm just happy to support a local manufacturer," he said. 

He'd be even happier if all three rebate incentive schemes recognized the Solo — but so far, it's hit and miss.

Provincial rebate: up to $5K

The Clean Energy Vehicles for British Columbia program (CEVforBC) offers up to $5,000 back for EVs with a manufacturer's suggested retail price under $77,000. The program is funded by the provincial government and supported by the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. 

Tamaki says even with delays he has no buyer's regret because there's no car on the market like the Electra Meccanica Solo. He ordered the car in 2016 and hopes to take delivery this fall. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The Solo doesn't appear on the CEVforBC eligible vehicle list, but in April, Tamaki received assurances from the program co-ordinator that his new car will qualify. 

Unfortunately, there's another problem looming.

With so many people switching to EVs, the CEVforBC fund is quickly running out of money.

As of this writing, there was only $4.157 million remaining to be handed out, with the reserve amount dropping by more than $150,000 every day. 

It is possible the province will top up the program, as it did last month. But there are no guarantees.

Federal rebate: up to $5K

The federal government jumped on the EV incentive bandwagon on May 1, when it introduced its own rebate program offering up to $5,000.

The launch of the federal program combined with the provincial program sent EV sales through the roof in B.C., according to Blair Qualey, president of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.

"It was like the Army and Navy shoe sale," he said. "There was this rush through the door on May 1 to try to get the incentives."

Unfortunately, Tamaki won't be joining the enthusiastic hordes scooping up free federal money. So far the Solo has not been deemed eligible for the program.

Scrapit incentive: up to $6K

The news was the same from B.C.'s Scrapit program, which offers a maximum $6,000 incentive to scrap a high-polluting gas guzzler in exchange for an EV or other type of clean-energy vehicle.

The driver's seat is the only seat in the Electra Meccanica Solo. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Tamaki's 1996 Honda Civic is a perfect candidate for the Scrapit program, so he has the junker side covered.

However, a Scrapit spokeswoman told him the Solo isn't eligible on the EV side because it has three wheels instead of four.

And even if it was eligible, it might not make a difference. Like the CEVforBC program, the Scrapit website warns its pot of money is quickly running out as car buyers rush to cash in.

Rebates aside, Tamaki remains 45th in line at the Vancouver Electra Meccanica dealership to receive his Solo. 

The hope of getting 80 per cent of his purchase price back in rebates remains a pipe dream.

But, he says, money was never the biggest concern when he signed up to buy the little car. 

"It just made sense," he said. "I drive by myself all the time … but driving around with nobody sitting with me doesn't feel right."

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