The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP), administered by the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) for the California Air Resources Board (CARB), provides rebates to California residents who purchase qualifying Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV). The CVRP Increased Rebate provides an additional rebate incentive to CVRP participants who are of low to moderate-income (LMI) status.1 LMI participation in the CVRP has accounted for 15.6% of all CVRP funding since November 1st, 2016, and CARB is interested in increasing the participation of LMI individuals.

This report supplements CSE’s prior research: Analysis of LMI CVRP Participation2 and Demographic Analysis of LMI Focus Groups: Supplemental Report to Analysis of LMI CVRP Participation.3 This report analyzes these same focus group discussions to complement and build off this previous work, with the goal of increasing CVRP participation among LMI individuals and ensuring equity across the program. This report analyzes preferences for the following among demographic groups.

  • Preference to Purchase or Lease Vehicles: Most participants prefer to purchase rather than lease vehicles, citing freedom from concerns about mileage and condition of the car as primary reasons. Participants also prefer to spend money on an asset they own rather than lease.
  • Preference to Acquire New or Used Cars: Majority of participants preferred to acquire new cars. Participants associated used cars with unanticipated maintenance costs; new cars were considered more reliable in this context. Despite a strong desire to acquire new cars, participants expressed that used cars are much more feasible due to limitations of finances.
  • Preference to Utilize Public or Private Transportation: Most participants preferred private transportation but expressed interest in well-executed public transportation. Most noted that public transportation is not reliable or present in desired areas.

From CSE’s prior research and this supplemental report, we have determined that some demographics are underrepresented within CVRP, and that barriers and preferences identified by various demographics differ. Prior research indicates that we communicate with demographics regarding their specific concerns in the ways they want to hear about them. Tailoring messages to include solutions to the barriers stated by these focus groups is ideal. In addition to these recommendations, as a result of this report, we recommend the following.

  • Understand that freedom and spontaneity are strong reasons LMI individuals prefer to use personal vehicles and purchase vehicles rather than leasing them. Ensure that programs enhance these values.
  • Support the inclusion of used cars into incentive or infrastructure programs. It is easier for LMI individuals to acquire used EVs because LMI individuals prefer used cars due to associated expenses. New cars, while desired, are not readily feasible.

In summary, LMI demographics have varying thoughts on barriers, information sources and purchasing preferences. Costs, charging, freedom and ease of use are important among all participants. Online resources and experiential learning are preferred; LMI individuals seek to be well informed ahead of purchasing or leasing. LMI participants expressed a higher interest in purchasing used cars as opposed to leasing or acquiring new cars. These insights will help inform marketing, program decisions and future research. We suggest considering these findings and CSE’s prior research when reevaluating program components and design to yield higher participation among this population.


1 LMI is defined as 400% of the Federal Poverty Line or below.

2 Gartner, J., Cain, N. J., MacNeille, B., & McCormack, R. (2021). Analysis of LMI CVRP Participation.

3 McCormack, R., Stafford, M., Good, C., Gartner, J. & Henkin, Z. (2022). Demographic Analysis of LMI Focus Groups. Supplemental Report to Analysis of LMI CVRP Participation.