Scrap and Replace program helps low-income Californians buy cleaner cars (and now e-bikes)


California is so eager to get gas-guzzling vehicles off the road that it is paying people to replace them with cleaner vehicles.

The Clean cars 4 All The program – essentially California’s “cash for clunkers” – gives low-income Californians the option of trading in their old cars for a hybrid or all-electric vehicle. Or, residents can choose not to use their cars and receive vouchers for transit passes or carsharing programs, and more recently, discounts on electric bikes.

There are four California “air districts”, enacted under the Air Pollution Control Act in 1947 and responsible for air quality in all 35 counties of the state, participating in Clean Cars 4 All. These local districts implement the program, with some flexibility to best meet the needs of their community, explains Melanie Turner, California Air Resources Council spokesperson.

So far, the San Francisco Bay Area, South Coast (which includes Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties), San Joaquin Valley, and Sacramento are the four air districts that have adopted the program.

Overall, residents can choose to scrap their cars and replace, or scrap and receive a voucher for alternative transportation. All districts have income-based eligibility criteria and require the car to be in working order. In the San Joaquin Valley the scrapped car must be built in 1999 or older, in the other three districts the requirement is 1995 or older. Cars from the 1990s and before had less stringent emission standards, which allows more pollutants to be emitted per mile than in newer models. 75 percent of a car’s lifetime carbon emissions come from the fuel it burns, not from its production.

A 2018 to study of the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan found that electric vehicles cost less than half the price of fuel than gasoline-powered cars. The average cost to power an electric car in the United States is $ 485 per year, while the average for a gasoline-powered car is $ 1,117. New cars generally require less maintenance, however, the initial costs of an electric vehicle tend to be upper.

In the Bay Area, 103 low-income families participated in the program, totaling more than $ 850,000 in vouchers.

Grants vary between $ 4,000 and $ 9,500, depending on the applicant’s household income and his preference for vehicle replacement or an alternative mobility option, explains Turner.

Last year, Senate Bill 400 expanded the Clean Cars 4 All program to allow e-bikes and bike-sharing to be included as mobility options in the grant program, meaning participants can choose to swap their water bottle for an electric bike or a public transport voucher.

Recently, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District submitted its plan to offer e-bikes as part of the program, Turner says, and the plan is being evaluated.

“If approved, the district plans to start processing e-bike applications very soon,” Turner said.

This program is consistent with the recent announcement that it will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars and trucks by 2035.

“Transportation is responsible for over 50% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions. 80 percent of smog-forming pollution and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions, ”wrote state Governor Gavin Newsom. on Twitter announcing the ban, adding that “we will use our market power to promote innovation in zero emission vehicles and reduce costs for everyone”.

This is a milestone for California, which is one of the largest passenger car markets in the world.

The transportation sector is the main source of carbon pollution in the United States Between the 1990s and 2018, transportation emissions increased more than emissions from any other sector, according to the EPA.

Claire Marie Porter was an intern at Next City INN / Columbia Journalism School for the fall of 2020. She is a Pennsylvania-based reporter who writes on health, science and environmental justice, and her work can be found in the Washington Post, Grid Magazine, WIRED and other publications.


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