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By Sophia Schmidt of WHYY

Good news for Pennsylvanians looking to buy electric vehicles: you can now get bigger rebates.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) changed its program that helps consumers buy electric vehicles. As of September 1, rebates are higher, and the program has income limits. The changes aim to target working-class families.

“It’s important that all Pennsylvanians have access to the benefits of electric transportation, including healthier air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions in their communities, as well as the long-term lower costs of driving electric,” said Deborah Klenotic, deputy communications director at DEP, in an emailed statement.

The Alternative Fuel Vehicle Rebate Program, funded through the utilities gross receipts tax, has been around for years.

Prior to this month, consumers could get rebates of $750 for battery electric vehicles — with income-eligible applicants able to get an additional $1,000.

Now the maximum rebates are $2,000 or $3,000, depending on household income. It’s a significant increase, but the amount still barely puts a dent in the price of an average electric car.

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As of last year, over 23,000 electric vehicles were registered in Pennsylvania — just a fraction of a percent of all vehicles registered in the state.

DEP Acting Secretary Ramez Ziadeh hopes the bigger incentives help get 1,000 more electric vehicles on Pa. roads in the next year, improving air quality and reducing emissions.

“By reducing nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants from the transportation sector, we make the air quality healthier in our communities, while helping to slow down climate change and its impacts,” Ziadeh said in a press release.

The rebate program has $2 million available over the next year.

The program is now limited to Pennsylvanians earning less than 400% of the federal poverty level, or $54,360 for an individual and $111,000 for a family of four. The highest rebates are reserved for families earning below 200% of the federal poverty level.

The program applies to new or used alternative fuel vehicles up to a purchase price of $50,000.

The highest rebates are for battery electric cars and trucks. Other rebate options are $1,500 for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, $500 for natural gas-fueled vehicles, $500 for propane-fueled vehicles, and $500 for electric motorcycles. All of these rebates increase by $1,000 for families whose income is below 200% of the federal poverty level.

The program offers reimbursement after a family buys a vehicle — not at the point of sale. The rebates are also considered taxable income.

The Inflation Reduction Act President Biden signed last month also includes tax credits for new and used electric vehicles. These can be combined with the state rebate, according to Klenotic, the DEP spokesperson.

More resources are also going toward charging stations.

DEP announced Thursday that $3.4 million in Pennsylvania Volkswagen settlement funds will go to installing DC fast chargers for electric vehicles in 12 counties, including at Wawa stores in Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery counties.