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The new Mass. EV incentives won’t kick in until sometime in 2023

Roger Souza plugs in his Model Y Performance Tesla at a charging station on McGrath Highway in Somerville. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Roger Souza plugs in his Model Y Performance Tesla at a charging station on McGrath Highway in Somerville. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

If you’ve been waiting for the new Massachusetts electric vehicle incentives to kick in before buying an EV, it looks like you’ll have to keep waiting.

In mid-August, lawmakers passed a big climate bill that, among other things, overhauled the state’s electric vehicles incentive program, MOR-EV. The so-called DRIVE Act bumped the rebate for new EVs from $2,500 to $3,500 and made it available for people who bought used EVs as well. It also, importantly, said the rebate would be given at the point of sale to effectively lower the sticker price of the vehicle, and it offered extra money for lower income residents and people trading in gas-powered cars.

But several months later, none of these changes have gone into effect, leaving consumers, car dealerships and lawmakers frustrated and confused.

“It’s hard for me to accept that the minimum $3,500 subsidy — which became law ... upon the date of the governor signing the DRIVE Act— is still not available to my constituents and to other people in Massachusetts,” Senator Mike Barrett, who helped craft the climate law, said at a Senate sub-committee meeting this week. “Why is that?”

State energy officials began by defending the delay, but eventually said there were two reasons for it: administrative back-end work and lack of funding.

“We have an existing contract with a vendor that executes the MOR-EV program. That contract did not anticipate some of the provisions within the new climate legislation,” said Patrick Woodcock, commissioner of the Department of Energy Resources, which administers the MOR-EV program.

He added that the Department is actively looking for a new vendor who can handle the computer work necessary to dole out point-of-sale rebates, and that he hopes to have everything in place early next year. He would not, however, commit to a firm start date for the rebates.

And then there's the issue of funding.

The money for the expanded EV incentive program was included in an economic development bill that never passed last session, so as far as state officials are concerned, there's no extra money to give out.

Lawmakers countered that point by suggesting that the Department of Energy Resources could use some of its annual budget to help pay for the program, but Commissioner Woodcock held firm.

“The DRIVE Act does not include funding,” Woodcock replied. “So it is our position that the provisions within are not mandatory to be implemented until funding is made available.”

So what does all this mean for you?

If you’re in the market for an EV — and you can find one for sale — it doesn’t look like the expanded incentives will be available until the state gets its vendor contracts in order and receives more funding for the MOR-EV program.

When exactly that will be is unclear, but state officials sounded optimistic that early next year was feasible.

For more information on the EV incentives included in the Massachusetts climate law and the federal Inflation Reduction Act, read our explainer.

Related:

Miriam Wasser Twitter Senior Reporter, Climate and Environment
Miriam Wasser is a reporter with WBUR's climate and environment team.

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