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Alternative Fuel Car Rebates Extended

Electric cars have come a long way from having short ranges, and a wimpy top speed of 40 miles per hour. Now many electric cars can go upwards of 130mph, have a range of 250 miles, and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is trying to get more motorists to purchase one.

To help, the DEP's Alternative Fuel Rebate Program (AFRP) has been extended. The rebates are available for anyone who purchases a new plug in hybrid, plug in electric, natural gas, propane or hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The $2,000 rebate is for a plug in hybrid/electric car with a battery of 10kWh. There is a $1,000 rebate for hybrid/electric cars with smaller batteries, natural gas, propane or hydrogen vehicles. Also there is a $500 rebate for electric motored scooters and motorcycles.

“When we first started, even the straight hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius and some others were really few and far between, now straight hybrid vehicles are very popular. They’re being sold right now without incentives whatsoever,” said DEP spokesperson Lynda Rebarchak.

The Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus, and Chevy Volt all qualify for the $2,000 rebate. The Prius and Honda Accord qualify for the $1,000 rebate.

Electric and hybrid cars make up about .2% of all vehicles registered in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The rebate program began in 2004 and since 2011 has issued 1,350 rebates. The money for the program comes from a gross receipt tax on utilities.

Ken Dash from Baierl Automotive says the dealership sells 40-50 hybrid cars per year, and he has not been aware of any rebate program since 2007.

Even buses are joining in on the hybrid trend.

“We have incentive programs for even fleet vehicles. A lot of school buses are now looking at propane. So we’re trying to get away from the gasoline and diesel which is definitely having a good impact on our air quality,” said Rebarchak.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County’s first hybrid buses were made possible through an AFRP grant of $3.5 million in 2005.

Rebarchak says since the program has started the state has noticed a better air quality through its monitors, but this could also be from a number of factors, including the growing popularity of alternative fuel cars and better emission controls on all vehicles.

AFRP has been extended until all 500 rebates are claimed or until the end of the year, whichever comes first.  At that time ]the DEP will reevaluate and adjust the program.

The car must be new and purchased within the last 6 months. Customers can apply at the DEP website.

Jess was accepted as a WESA fellow in the news department in January 2014. The Erie, PA native attends Duquesne University where she has a double major--broadcast journalism and political science. Following her anticipated graduation in May 2015, she plans to enter law school or begin a career in broadcast journalism.