CalBike’s $10M E-Bike Affordability Campaign
E-bikes are the greenest electric vehicle. Soon, Californians will be able to get purchase incentives to make them more affordable.
The status of the $10M E-Bike Incentive Program
Updated February 1, 2023.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has begun to outline the e-bike incentives program. Here’s what we know so far:
- The incentives program will launch in the first quarter of 2023 and will be open to people living anywhere in California.
- Qualifying applicants may be able to get a voucher of up to $1,000 for a regular e-bike and up to $1,750 for a cargo or adaptive e-bike. People whose income is under 225% FPL or who live in disadvantaged (DAC) census tracts qualify for additional incentives of up to $250.
- To qualify for the incentive program, participants’ household income is capped at 300% of the federal poverty level (FPL).
- The program will support the purchase of Class 1 (up to 20 mph, pedal assist only) and Class 2 (up to 20 mph, pedal assist and throttle) e-bikes and Class 3 (up to 28 mph, pedal assist only).
- Participants must purchase a bike from a California bike shop or online from a company with a business location in California.
We estimate that the $13 million budget of the pilot project will fund between 4,000 and 7,000 e-bike vouchers, but demand is likely to be much higher. CalBike is advocating for additional funding so the program can continue past this year’s pilot.
The electric bike is the cleanest electric vehicle and the one that most efficiently reduces GHG emissions.
Why California needs an electric bicycle incentive program
E-bikes combine the bicycle’s efficiency (the “beautiful machine”) with the ease and power of an electric motor. They provide Californians the opportunity to travel much farther, faster, and over more difficult terrain than a regular bike. Studies show that e-bike trips do a great job of replacing car trips. And compared to cars, including electric cars, they are much more affordable to own and operate.
Unfortunately, getting an e-bike in the first place is expensive. Many Californians cannot afford $2,000 or more on an e-bike, so they are stuck paying $100 each time they fill their tank and struggle with repair and maintenance costs that cause many families to sacrifice too much.
E-bikes should be the centerpiece of a strategy to replace gas-powered car trips to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while also advancing equity, promoting public health, reducing traffic, helping families save money, and supporting local economies. Now, California has provided funding to support e-bikes.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the e-bike purchase incentive project that CalBike helped pass and that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) is implementing. It’s an exciting program, and information hasn’t always been easy to come by. So we’ve compiled some of the most common questions from people who want to get a voucher, bike retailers who want to participate in the program, and others.
Pedal Ahead, the administrator CARB chose for this program, has published its own FAQs, which contain some additional information. Please note: Some of the information in the Pedal Ahead FAQs doesn’t agree with the information we have about the program. We have been told by CARB that some of the elements referenced in their FAQs are still under discussion. We will update our FAQs as we get additional information.
The answers below are based on what we know now, as the e-bike program is still in its development phase. We plan to update them as more information becomes available.
Note: This post was originally written October 19, 2022, and last updatedMarch 28, 2023.
- No, you can’t apply for an e-bike incentive yet. The program will launch in the second quarter 2023, and applications will open then. We will announce the launch date as far in advance as we can.
- The pilot program is limited to Californians living at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.
- The voucher amount will likely be $1,000, with an extra $750 for a cargo or adaptive bike, and $250 additional for people below 225% FPL or living in a disadvantaged census tract.
- There are many local e-bike incentive programs. Visit our e-bike page for a full list.
What is California’s Electric Bicycle Incentives Project?
The Electric Bicycle Incentives Project is a $10 million program to provide vouchers to California residents to help them afford an e-bike. CalBike advocated for the budget allocation, which passed in 2021 and funds the pilot project.
CARB has found an additional $3 million in funding for the costs of administration, so more of the $10 million can be used for vouchers.
Can I get an e-bike voucher from CalBike?
CalBike is not administering the e-bike incentives program. Our role is one of advocacy. We advocated for the creation of this purchase incentive, and we will continue to push for an expanded budget to support the program. CalBike also shares critical information about the program via our e-bike newsletter, and we help our member’s voices be heard so that the program better serves the people who need it most. CalBike does not process or distribute incentives.
CARB will manage the incentive distribution process through its third-party administrator starting in 2023. We will share information about how to apply once it’s available, but CalBike won’t be involved in processing applications or awarding e-bike incentive vouchers.
Is California’s statewide program an expansion of the San Diego e-bike program?
No. Some press reports stated that California’s statewide purchase incentive was an expansion of a similar program in San Diego. This is incorrect.
CARB chose Pedal Ahead, an organization that runs an e-bike program in San Diego, to administer the statewide program. However, the CARB purchase incentives pilot will have rules and parameters determined by CARB in conjunction with input from advocates and the public. The statewide program is separate from and different from the San Diego program.
When can I apply for a California e-bike incentive?
As of this writing, the California statewide e-bike program is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2023, but that date could get pushed back slightly.
You can’t apply in advance. However, if you sign up for CalBike’s e-bike mailing list below, we’ll let you know when the application window will open as soon as we get the date.
How do I apply for a voucher from California’s statewide e-bike incentives program?
The program administrator will set up an application process, and you will almost certainly be able to apply for the program online.
To apply, you’ll need documentation to prove that you meet the income qualifications. We’ll know more about the application process closer to the launch date.
How can I get assistance to buy an e-bike in California?
The Electric Bicycle Incentives Project will be California’s first statewide e-bike voucher program. However, there are many regional and local programs where you might be able to get funding to help you buy an e-bike now.
SB 400, which CalBike helped pass in 2019, added an e-bike benefit to the Clean Cars for All program, which aims to take polluting cars off the road. If you have a qualifying car to turn in, incentives can be as high as $9,500, and you can use the funds to buy e-bikes and bike accessories for multiple family members. However, this program is administered by regional air quality management districts, and not all districts have added the e-bike benefit. We spoke to people who got this voucher in the Bay Area and Southern California to give you an idea of the process. Find out more details about the Bay Area program on this handy reference page.
In addition, there are numerous local programs through nonprofit organizations, utilities, and other entities. You can find many California programs on this list of global e-bike incentive programs.
How long does it take to get an e-bike incentive?
We don’t know how long the application process will take through the statewide program, but it will involve income verification and then finding an eligible bike vendor, so plan on at least a few weeks (and possibly longer) from when you apply.
For the Clean Cars program, the people we interviewed waited quite a few months to get through paperwork and approvals. For local programs, inquire directly about the timing.
Bottom line: If you need an e-bike ASAP, you might not want to wait to get a voucher.
Who will qualify for the California e-bike incentive program?
Eligibility for the pilot program will be limited to people whose income is less than 300% of the federal poverty level. That means the income caps (based on 2022 FPL guidelines; the 2023 numbers will be posted by 1/20/23) would be:
- Individual: $40,770
- Family of 2: $54,930
- Family of 3: $69,090
- Family of 4: $83,250
- Family of 5: $97,410
CARB originally proposed income limits of 400% FPL but lowered the limits to align with eligibility requirements for other clean vehicle programs.
How much will the California e-bike incentives be?
The basic incentive will be $1,000. The program will offer an additional $750 for people buying a cargo or adaptive bike and another $250 for people living below 225% of the federal poverty level or living in a disadvantaged community.
What kinds of bikes qualify for incentives?
You can use the incentive to buy any type of e-bike, including a folding bike, cargo bike, or adaptive bike. All three classes of e-bikes will be eligible for the program. However, you will need to purchase from a list of approved e-bike models.
E-bikes are grouped into three classes:
- Class 1: pedal assist only, 20 mph speed limited — will qualify for the program
- Class 2: pedal assist or throttle, 20 mph speed limited — will qualify for the program
- Class 3: pedal assist only, 28 mph speed limited, helmets required, must be 16 or older to operate — likely to qualify for the program
What qualifies as an adaptive bike?
CARB wants to keep the definition of adaptive bike as inclusive as possible. The category will most likely include tricycles and bikes modified for people with disabilities.
Can I use an e-bike incentive to buy a conversion kit?
There are numerous conversion kits on the market that allow you to add aftermarket electric power to a standard bike frame. At the moment, conversion kits are not part of the proposed eligible purchases. The EV program for cars doesn’t cover conversions, and CARB has let CalBike know that, to stay consistent, conversion kits probably won’t be eligible for vouchers through the e-bike incentives program.
Why can’t I get an incentive to buy a non-electric bike?
Excellent question. The current program covers only electric bike purchases, not standard or classic bikes. Electric bikes tend to be significantly more expensive than classic bikes, so a purchase incentive may be the only way for many people to afford one. In addition, many people who don’t feel comfortable riding a standard bike because of age, health issues, the need to carry passengers or cargo, etc., may replace car trips with bike trips on an electric bike.
However, the classic bicycle is incredibly energy-efficient and elegant transportation, and some places do offer incentives to help residents buy non-motorized bicycles. For example, the French government is offering 400 Euros to citizens who trade their cars for a bike or e-bike. CalBike would love to see a program like this in California and we will continue to explore ways to encourage more people to choose the joy of riding a bike.
Where can I buy an e-bike with a CARB incentive?
The program administrator will provide a list of qualifying bike retailers. You can buy from a bike shop or order an e-bike online.
How do I purchase a bike with an incentive?
The statewide incentive will be a point-of-sale benefit. Once you pick out a bike from a qualifying retailer, the incentive amount will be applied when you make the purchase. You don’t have to put out that money up front and get reimbursed.
I’m an e-bike retailer. How can I participate in the program?
The administrator will set up a process for e-bike retailers who want to accept e-bike incentive vouchers to apply to participate. Qualifying retailers need to have some kind of physical presence in California (a shop, office, or manufacturing facility), even if you sell your bikes exclusively online. You may need to supply parts to local retailers so participants can have access to repairs and service.
The process for retailers to join the program has not been set yet. Sign up for our e-bike interest list below, and we’ll share information about retailer participation when it becomes available.
How can I help shape California’s statewide incentives program?
CARB has been holding work group meetings to take input on the program. Sign up for CARB’s e-bike email list to get notified of the next work group meeting later this fall. We also send advance notice of work group meetings through the CalBike list.
To send comments on the program directly, email CleanTransportationIncentives@arb.ca.gov.
How do I get more information about the e-bike incentive program?
Have we mentioned that CalBike has an e-bike incentives interest list? Use the form below to add your name, and we’ll send periodic updates as we get more information, including letting you know when you can apply.
You can also sign up for CARB’s e-bike email list to get information directly from CARB