What Illinois' green energy law means for electric car buyers
There's a lot to unpack in Illinois' new 956-page clean energy program, including $4,000 rebates for electric vehicles, subsidies for charging stations and ... some ambiguities.
On Sept. 15, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the ambitious Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that aims to have 1 million electric cars on Illinois roads by 2030, convert to green energy by 2050 and grow solar power to counter climate change.
"There is no time to lose," Pritzker said at a bill signing. "Illinois is taking action in the fight to stop and even reverse the damage that's been done to our climate."
It took months to reach consensus on the energy policy and even now it's somewhat fluid. Tweaks are expected this fall to correct controversial glitches about who benefits from the rebates.
Here's what we know so far.
An electric vehicle means an electric vehicle. Unless it's an electric motorcycle, which doesn't qualify. Also out are hybrids and cars that run on fuel cells, natural gas, carrot peels, etc.
To pay for rebates, officials are relying on the Alternate Fuels Fund, a $20 annual fee levied on vehicles owned by businesses with a fleet of 10 or more cars.
It originated in 1995 to subsidize converting gas vehicles to alternative fuels such as natural gas. Significantly, the AFF only applies to Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, plus a few townships in Kendall and Grundy counties.
About 107,000 vehicles are subject to the fee, according to the Secretary of State's Office, and the fund balance sits at $5 million.
That seems insufficient to satisfy all the electric car buyers excited about a rebate, warned Chicago Area Clean Cities Group Chairman John Walton of Wheaton.
"I have no idea how this is going to work," said Walton, who thinks the emphasis on electrics is imprudent because it ignores other green technology including hydrogen-powered vehicles.
The law states rebates will last "as long as funds are available." Handouts of $4,000 begin July 1, 2022, for a four-year period. Rebates of $2,000 begin July 1, 2026, and then decrease to $1,000 on July 1, 2028.
Who gets a rebate? Applicants must live in Illinois and purchase an electric vehicle in the state. Low-income residents seeking rebates will be prioritized.
The law also indicates that only purchasers living in the metro region plus the Kendall/Grundy townships (who pay into the AFF) are eligible, a provision that's drawn criticism.
State officials say the law will be broadened to include all Illinoisans during the fall veto session.
Meanwhile, a Chevrolet Bolt EV's starting cost is $31,000; a Tesla Long-Range Model S begins at $89,990.
"Is a $4,000 rebate going to be enough to incite somebody to spend $35,000 to $40,000 on a new car? We'll have to wait and see," said Republican Sen. Don DeWitte of St. Charles, who voted against the bill.
However, "Chicago's new-car dealers are excited to be able to extend additional incentives to buyers of electric vehicles," Chicago Automobile Trade Association spokesman Mark Bilek said. Extra savings may come "with new federal incentives that are currently under consideration," he added.
Currently, there are more than 10.7 million registered vehicles in Illinois; 33,343 of them are electric cars.
The law also includes rebates of up to 80% for entities that install electric vehicle charging stations to beef up the limited network across the state.
An electric car czar position has been created to oversee the rebate and charging station programs.
Got a comment or transportation question? Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One more thing
Two Metra Police Department officers were lauded by the agency after reacting quickly to help a distraught man on Sept. 15. The man had driven into a work zone at 127th Street and the Metra Electric Line tracks in Blue Island and his car was stuck on the railway crossing.
When Metra police approached, he attempted to harm himself. Sgt. Will Wright and Metra Police Officer Andrea Clunie intervened and offered words of comfort. The man was later taken to the hospital.
There have been 13 attempted or confirmed suicides on Metra tracks in 2021 compared to 19 last year. There were 72 interventions in 2020 and 42 to date this year. Help is available at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
You should know
Expect delays Monday on Route 83 in Oakbrook Terrace and Elmhurst with lane closures resulting from a culvert replacement near Roosevelt Road. Work for 2021 wraps up in early November.