What happened with Connecticut's e-bike voucher program? Here’s what you need to know
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) launched an electric bicycle incentive program earlier this summer that offered $500,000 in vouchers toward the purchase of an eligible e-bike.
Within a matter of days, more than 6,000 applications were submitted. The overewhelming demand caused DEEP officials to increase funding for the initial round of the program, but resulted in thousands of rebate applications getting rejected.
Here is everything you need to know about e-bikes and the state rebate program.
What is an e-bike?
Kate Rozen, an advocate for the incentive program, describes e-bikes as, “a bicycle that has an attached motor and battery that allows it to provide pedal assist.” Rozen said these bikes can be for people who may need help with powering their bicycles. Enthusiasts often say e-bikes are fun to cycle and that the electric motor helps reduce the workload on the rider, so people don't get as sweaty when they arrive at their destination.
Are there different kinds of e-bikes?
There are three different classes of e-bikes in Connecticut, Rozen says. Class 1 e-bikes only have pedal assistance and have a speed limit of 20 mph. Class 2 e-bikes also have a speed limit of 20 mph, but these bikes generate power regardless of if the rider is pedaling. According to Rozen, these are the most common e-bikes in Connecticut. Class 3 e-bikes are similar to class 1 bikes, except they have a speed limit of 28 mph.
How much does an e-bike cost?
E-bikes can be very expensive. Rozen says, “As with most consumer electronics goods, you can get a fairly cheap one [or] some of the big box retailers [can charge] all the way up to $10,000."
What is the voucher program?
The voucher program was created by DEEP and offered state residents 18 years and older vouchers towards the purchase of an e-bike costing up to $3,000, from participating stores.
There are two types of vouchers — a standard voucher that allowed applicants to receive $500, and a "Voucher+" that provided qualified applicants a $1,000 voucher.
Residents 18 and older could apply for a standard voucher. But, to qualify for the Voucher+, applicants had to meet any one of three requirements:
- Residing in designated environmental justice or distressed municipality communities
- Participate in a state or federal income-qualifying program, such as Medicaid or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Have an income less than 300% of the federal poverty level
How much was available for this round of vouchers?
At the program’s launch, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes said the program had a roughly $1.5 million budget.
These funds allowed for three years of incentives. Each year, the program would allocate $500,000, which should work out to 3,000 vouchers being available over the three years.
What happened to the vouchers?
Soon after the program launched, DEEP had already received over 1,200 applications. Ten days later, DEEP closed the application portal after receiving over 6,000 applications — over 1,300 were standard applications and over 5,000 applications were for the Voucher+.
The overwhelming amount of applications prompted DEEP to increase this year’s budget to $750,000, enabling the program to issue incentives only to the first 500 Voucher+ applicants.
How can I check the status of my voucher application?
All applicants should have received an email indicating whether they were approved or denied a voucher, Rozen said.
When will the next round of vouchers open?
Now that voucher applications have been processed, there is a 90-day redemption period. After these 90 days, DEEP will assess the program’s data and begin working on improving the second round of vouchers.
The agency has not decided when the next round of vouchers will open, but a spokesperson said Friday all round one applicants will be notified "with information about that opportunity as soon as it is available."
Rozen said many people were disappointed they did not receive vouchers, and she’s hoping more can be given out in coming rounds. She says it would also be helpful if more money is added to the program’s budget for future rounds.
“We have such tremendous potential to reduce auto emissions, and we know that 40% of our issues with climate crisis are from transportation,” Rozen said. “So, these small miraculous opportunities to get people to change their behavior, we absolutely need to embrace them and support them.”
This story has been updated.