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Illinois wants more EVs on the road, but the new budget just reduced funding for EV rebates

A pair of electric vehicles charge outside of the Illinois Capitol Complex in Springfield. The state has set a goal of putting 1 million EVs on state roads by 2030.

BLOOMINGTON – The new state budget includes less money for a popular electric-vehicle rebate program, potentially hindering efforts to reach a stated goal of 1 million EVs on the road by 2030.

The new budget, signed into law last week, includes $12 million for the EV rebate program, officials said. That’s about $7.3 million less than was spent on the rebate program last year.

The rebates launched in July 2022, offering $4,000 to Illinoisans who bought a new or used EV from an Illinois licensed dealer. The number of applications well exceeded the available funds by early January 2023, said a spokesperson for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which administers the program. In all, 4,832 rebates were awarded, from $19.3 million in funding.

The program was “wildly successful,” so it’s concerning that it’s now seeing a 38% funding cut, said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs at the Chicago-based Respiratory Health Association.

“This is going to make it extremely difficult if you’re not having incentives to encourage people – especially people of limited means – to move into electric vehicles that are going to be cleaner, that are going to have less mechanical problems and maintenance, and are going to be cheaper to operate over the long-term,” Urbaszewski said. “It’s keeping a good product out of the hands of a lot of Illinois residents who could really use it.”

It’s especially concerning because EV sales are growing in Illinois, he said.

Indeed, there were about 70,200 EVs on the road at the end of May, up 61% from a year ago, according to data from the Illinois secretary of state. In McLean County where Rivian is building its electric vehicles and some employees own them, there are now 1,041 EVs, up 675 this time last year.

“So just to keep on pace and to run out of money in January next year again, they’d probably need about $45 million, just to duplicate what happened last year,” Urbaszewski said. “And to have $12 million, it’s just really not going to do much at all. And it’s going to cause the public to lose confidence in the program. Why would we even look at electric cars when the rebates that the governor’s talking about aren’t really there?”

State lawmakers have set a goal of getting 1 million EVs on the road by 2030. The rebates are one tactic being used to reach that goal. The Pritzker administration also hired the state’s first EV coordinator last year, touting the economic and environmental benefits of EVs. Pritzker’s initial proposed budget included $20 million for the EV rebates, and it was lawmakers who lowered it to $12 million, said an Illinois EPA spokesperson.

The American Lung Association issued a report last week laying out staggering health benefits that would come with widespread EV adoption in Illinois, coupled with non-combustion electricity generation. In Illinois, the transition would generate $49.2 billion in public health benefits by 2050 and result in up to 4,490 avoided deaths, 113,000 avoided asthma attacks, 549,000 avoided lost workdays, according to the report, titled “Driving to Clean Air.”

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Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Newsroom gets stories from public radio stations from across the state, including WBEZ-Chicago, WCBU-Peoria, WGLT-Normal, WVIK-Rock Island, WIUM-Macomb, WNIJ-DeKalb, WSIU-Carbondale, WUIS-Springfield, and St. Louis Public Radio.

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“After 8 years on City Council and 8 years as mayor, 16 in city government, is a good long run,” Marlin said in an interview with Illinois Public Media.