Beginning Jan. 1, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and vehicles that cost more than $50,000 will no longer be eligible for a Massachusetts rebate program aimed at promoting the use of zero-emission vehicles.
In the new year, rebates under the program known as MOR-EV (Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles) will only be available to people who buy or lease fully-electric vehicles known as battery electric vehicles or fuel cell electric vehicles.
The maximum rebate is also shrinking from $2,500 per vehicle to $1,500.
"We have had increasing demand, very high demand, for these rebates," said Judith Judson, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. "In order to sustain the program and continue to provide rebates at that high a demand level, we are making changes ... and targeting those vehicles that provide the greatest emission reduction."
Since the MOR-EV program began in June 2014, the state has given out more than $25.7 million in more than 12,000 rebates. According to data on the program's website, nearly half of those rebates were given out in 2018.
The lowering of the price cap is meant to reflect new, lower-priced electric vehicles, which have hit the market in the last few years.
"The good news is there's more and more vehicles that are available at that lower price," Judson said. "We want to make sure that this program is really reaching drivers who need the incentive, ensuring that there's the greatest access to the program possible."
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) use an onboard battery, can be recharged from an external source, do not use any kind of traditional engine and release zero-emissions. They include all Tesla models, the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Nissan Leaf.
Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have electric engines which run on compressed hydrogen fuel. They include versions of the Honda Clarity, Hyundai Tucson and the Toyota Mirai.
State data show about 56 percent of rebates have been given to BEV buyers and lessees. Another 43 percent has gone to people with plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs), which run on a combination of electricity and a gas engine.
People who buy or lease a PHEV by Dec. 31 will still be eligible to receive a rebate. They must apply for it within three months of buying or leasing their vehicle.
The program is only guaranteed to continue through June 30, 2019. In the new year, state officials will decide whether it will be extended past that date.