First look at Oregon’s new e-bike rebate legislation

Rebate recipients will be granted up to $1,200 to purchase a non-cargo e-bike or up to $1,700 to purchase a cargo e-bike

Outgoing Oregon State Representative Karin Power (D-41 Milwaukie) has made her affinity for electric bicycles known. She’s also made it clear she thinks the state should offer financial incentives to other Oregonians who want to take advantage of this convenient, fun, environmentally-friendly transportation option.

Power has delivered on her promise: In the 2023 legislative session, Oregon will have the opportunity to enact a government-funding e-bike purchase incentive program.

Legislative Concept (LC) 1994 (PDF), “directs [the Oregon] Department of Environmental Quality to establish program for providing rebates to qualifying individuals who purchase electric assisted bicycles or cargo electric bicycles and qualifying equipment.” Qualifying equipment can include a helmet, “safety vest,” light, or lock.

LC 1994 was prepared by Power and her staff and has since been handed off to Representative Dacia Grayber (D- 35 Tigard), who will sponsor the bill this coming session.

Carrie Leonard, a former Power staffer who helped write this draft, said the proposal is based on Benton County’s e-bike rebate program implemented in 2020. This program was led by the Corvallis Benton County Economic Development Office in partnership with Pacific Power and the Oregon Clean Fuels Program, and offered up to $1,200 for selected people living on low-incomes to buy electric bikes from local businesses. Like other e-bike rebate programs across the country have been, this initiative was a success, proving there is a serious demand for e-bikes — especially when they’re available at a discount.

“We felt, after speaking with the utility company and the project managers at the City of Corvallis, that they had successfully beta tested a robust incentive program that could be used as a model for a state-wide program,” Leonard told BikePortland in a recent email.

According to the e-bike subsidy tracker compiled by researchers at the Portland State University Transportation Research and Education Center, two other cities around the state have embarked on rebate programs in recent years. Eugene’s water and electricity provider began offering a $300 electric bike credit earlier this year, and a program in City of Ashland offers a $200 credit. Grayber’s bill would be the first to make the subsidy available statewide.

LC 1994 would be led by the state Department of Environmental Quality, which would be granted $6 million from the state general fund starting July 1, 2023 to distribute the rebates. Assuming some of the $6 million budget would go toward administrative costs, there should be enough left for several thousand Oregonians to receive subsidies, but it will probably be a competitive program.

Rebate recipients will be granted up to $1,200 to purchase a non-cargo e-bike or up to $1,700 to purchase a cargo e-bike, plus qualifying equipment. The bikes must have a minimum retail sales price of $950.

Even though this proposal was drafted with the Benton County program in mind, the text currently distinguishes itself in that it doesn’t include income requirements to qualify for the rebate: the only requirement is that recipients are Oregon residents and over the age of 16.

One of the rules included in the draft text is that recipients must maintain ownership of the bike for at least a year after receiving the rebate, presumably to discourage people reselling the bike they bought with state funds.

E-bike subsidy proposals have come and gone before — advocates will recall the disappointing death of Portland’s U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer’s E-BIKE ACT — but with all local e-bike buzz, there’s a case for optimism here. (We won’t fault you for window shopping, but protect your hearts!)

The 2023 session of the Oregon Legislature begins January 17th. Stay tuned for developments as the bill works its way through the process.

You can read the LC draft bill text below. We’ll have more details for you as soon as they’re available.

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joan
1 month ago

I’ve been casually following various rebate models in different places, and I am so impressed with what’s been put together here: it’s a point-of-sale rebate that will reduce the purchase price for ebikes at registered Oregon retailers, meaning that buyers will have a lower price on the spot, and the purchases will be made at Oregon bike shops. This makes so much sense and is so much simpler than many other programs. And, the amount is enough to make a real difference for folks who might not otherwise get an ebike. Kudos to Carrie Leonard and Rep Power! I hope this sails through the legislature.

PS
PS
1 month ago

If the goal is to get as many people on ebikes as possible, and the bill exists because there is a perception that ebikes are too expensive for many people, hence the subsity, why is this not means tested? Why should dentist Dan get $1,200 off on his $12,000 Specialized ebike?

Charley
Charley
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Because means-testing doesn’t work that well:

“Means-tested benefits can actually be more expensive to provide, harder to sell politically, and less effective than universal social programs, and they can place both a social stigma and discouraging bureaucratic requirements on Americans in need.“

https://www.vox.com/platform/amp/2021/10/15/22722418/means-testing-social-spending-reconciliation-bill

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

a social stigma

And there it is — the hard nosed mean-spirited puritanism that makes ‘murrica so awful.

discouraging bureaucratic requirements on Americans in need

Anti-poor bureaucratic requirements that function to restrict benefits from those that qualify is a uniquely ‘murrican thing. This cruelty is a choice.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  soren

Making a subsidy available to everyone is not “anti-poor”.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

available

I definitely agree that a credit should be available to everyone (who needs it). The problem with zero sum “universal” funding (e.g. $6 million) is that only a tiny fraction of people who need help the most get it.

This program is kind of like offering universal healthcare to everyone in the USA but funding it to a cap of $100,000,000. Universal healthcare that only covers a fraction of those who really need it is hardly universal.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  Charley

So, why do we means test medicaid, SNAP, section 8, LIHTC affordable housing, Affordable Care Act benefits, college loan forgiveness, student loan interest deduction, COVID stimulus benefits, and a whole host of other benefits?

We means test hundreds of billion dollar programs, pretty sure we can make sure $6MM goes to people who need it.

soren
soren
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

Social security and medicare are also modestly means tested but you’ll rarely see universal flat tax/transfer supporters admit this.

Psmith
Psmith
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

I agree, I would prefer for it to have some kind of income requirement.

SM
SM
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

A lot more people (like me) will support this if they don’t means test. More bike riders will lead to more support for bike related infrastructure so it would be a win/win.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  SM

No kidding, if the last 3 years has proved anything, people love their free money with no strings attached. Regardless, the number of riders you get is fixed since the funds are fixed, what you’re advocating for is for people who don’t need government funds to receive government funds, which only makes the government look more wasteful and less skillful at capital allocation.

SM
SM
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

The devils in the details, right? What would be the cutoff amount if means tested? 25k? 50k? The lower it is the less support it will receive.

PS
PS
1 month ago
Reply to  SM

Of course, people want free money, and they aren’t in favor of things they don’t qualify for. If the cutoff was median income that would be better than a free for all and it would provide confidence it was going to the lowest 50% of income strata.

AJ Jones
AJ Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  PS

In addition to means testing being more expensive and being a barrier for the people means-tested measures are supposed to help, as mentioned by Charley, the logic here doesn’t really follow – if we want to get more people on ebikes, then we should maximize the people that get help getting ebikes. If the program is a big success (and I suspect it would be), then that creates more political will to extend it and continue funding it. Maybe dentist Dan could even be convinced to pay a few extra bucks a year in taxes, since he got a big discount on his sweet new ride!

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  AJ Jones

Maybe dentist Dan could even be convinced to pay a few extra bucks a year in taxes, since he got a big discount on his sweet new ride!

Surely you jest.

ES
ES
1 month ago

I’m glad this isn’t means tested.

The State has already cut most prospective electric vehicle buyers out of the rebate. The maximum amount is only available to those making under ~$56,000 for singles, and a little higher for larger households. Good luck affording an EV on that salary, even with the rebate.

You can’t cut out the middle class from the rebate if you want widespread adoption.

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  ES

Exactly this. Our family looked at purchasing an electric vehicle, and I quickly discovered that the state won’t give us a cent. Total ownership costs for our use case are still lower for a ICE vehicle, so we’ll just go that route.

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

What’s important in this era is the performance of doing the right thing. The actual efficacy is a secondary consideration, if that.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago

environmentally-friendly transportation option

[citation needed]

pigs
pigs
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt

Is being 200x lighter (and thus 200x less battery) than an electric car not enough to be environmentally friendly?

Watts
Watts
1 month ago
Reply to  pigs

Only if it replaces said car.

Matt
Matt
1 month ago
Reply to  Watts

Bingo.

A.X.
A.X.
1 month ago

When you’re funding up to 86% of the purchase price, you’re begging for scalpers and unnecessary purchases (because it’s nearly free). Especially ludicrous when there’s only enough money to subsidize four to five thousand e-bikes, and there’s no assurance the e-bikes bought are tools and not toys (ie excluding more recreational variants of e-bikes).

Chris I
Chris I
1 month ago
Reply to  A.X.

I was just at Costco yesterday, and they’re pushing some garbage $1,400 e-“mountain bike” this year. How many car trips are those going to replace?

A.X.
A.X.
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris I

Wow they’ve already priced an ebike to be as cheap as possible to capture all of the subsidy!

Nick
Nick
1 month ago

Yes, let’s give away more money! Oregon has plenty! And let’s spend it on something “green” and “environment friendly “. You know how the energy is produced that recharges your batteries? Ever see a lithium mine?….

9watts
9watts
1 month ago

I think this is a terrible idea. If we want to reward people for not driving we should give those who don’t own a car the money, Some 15% of Multnomah Co. households (last time I checked) did not own a car. We don’t need to subsidize expensive gadgets on the off chance that it might have some unknown modest effect on VMT or car ownership.

Then there is the matter of those who bike (but don’t need lithium, complex electronic circuitry, global supply chains, and the rest of the tightly coupled economy to sustain their mode choice over time). Why not give those folks the money?

So indirect, but it of course (ultimately) gives (most of) the money to multinationals, which is always good fun.

A.X.
A.X.
1 month ago
Reply to  9watts

Really the only justification for e-bike subsidies are that ebikes are new and drawing attention to them will bolster their adoption. And they have shown some success in that regard elsewhere.

Because that aside, there’s zero sense in paying people to use something thats already vastly cheaper than the thing you want it to replace – I e. cars.

Joe Everett
Joe Everett
1 month ago

Government taxes what they want to discourage and subsidizes what they want to encourage. Here they are encouraging the local e-bike businesses. These businesses are the recipients of increased sales.
If we know anything about government give-aways it is that there are unintended consequences. One possible consequence is that local dealers might raise their prices knowing that they will still make the sales due to government subsidy.
Another unintended consequence is that anyone considering an e-bike purchase may delay that purchase until this bill passes and takes effect, so negatively affecting sales.
Like so many government give-aways, this one assumes it is ok to take money from one citizen to give something to another. With few exceptions an e-bike is not an essential item. While I would like to have one is it right to force my neighbors to buy me one?
As others have said, an e-bike is only an improvement for the environment if it replaces a car. It is an expensive alternative to a mechanical bicycle for the able-bodied. Therefore any program to supply them should be based on need, not blanket eligibility.
If there is only enough money for 5000 bikes wouldn’t an existing agency supporting the very poor and needy be a better mode of distribution?
Overall, this is a flawed bill wrapped in utopian ideals. A chicken in every pot and an e-bike in every home. Please legislators, think before passing yet another boondoggle. If you have $6M to spare, direct it in your budget to someone who knows the need and can meet it.