Eligible electric vehicle buyers to get money back after province abruptly slashes rebates

The B.C. government is clarifying its rules around electric vehicle rebates after suddenly slashing amounts over the weekend forcing some buyers to fork out thousands of extra dollars for their cars.

"Well, it happened rather abruptly over the weekend, and it did create some confusion both for consumers and some of our dealer members," says Blair Quale, CEO of the New Car Dealers Association.

His organization administers B.C.'s clean energy vehicle program known as CEVforBC.

The province is reiterating that anyone who purchased or reserved their vehicles prior to June 22 will be covered by the prior incentives while clarifying the type of documentation required.

"As long as the dealer and the consumer can show you there was a deposit made, that there is an actual purchase order for a vehicle from the factory and the other necessary documents that are required then they'll be covered," said Quale.

An application checklist can be found on the organization's website.

'We were shocked'

The province reeled back its incentives for electric vehicles as of June 22.

Rebates are now worth $3,000 for battery, fuel-cell and longer-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and $1,500 for shorter-range plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

This is a reduction from the previous incentives which ranged between $2,500 to $6,000, depending on the kind of car. 

Mission's Sundeep Cheema is breathing a sigh of relief after unexpectedly having to pay an extra $2,000 for his Tesla Model 3 over the weekend.

Minutes before he was scheduled to arrive at the Vancouver dealership to pick up his new car on Saturday, he got a call from Tesla telling him his purchase contract had to be rewritten with an extra two grand tacked on.

"We were shocked," said Cheema.

Ben Nelms/CBC

He says the dealership was under the impression he no longer qualified for prior incentives even though the province's initial announcement did say eligible buyers would be grandfathered into the program.

But after spending hours at the dealership and unable to get the $2,000 removed, the father of two went through with the deal.

"We were looking forward to that new car ... we had planned everything for it," he said.

Now he says he's glad to hear he'll get his money back, but the poor service experience has left a bad taste in his mouth.

CBC News contacted Tesla but no one was available to speak.

Quale says EV buyers who picked up their cars over this past weekend will have to work with the dealers to get their money back.

'Silver age' of incentives

Despite the confusion, electric vehicle advocates say this is the time to buy as rebates are forecast to diminish.

"This is maybe the silver age for incentives," said Matthew Klippenstein with PlugIn BC, whereas the past seven weeks with the federal and provincial incentives might have been the brief golden age."

The federal rebate of $5,000 for qualifying vehicles, which began on May 1, is still available.