Getting the right rebates can take an EV charging location from prohibitively expensive to surprisingly affordable. But you can’t just hold out your hand and expect money to appear. A lot of work goes into finding and applying for the right EV charger rebate programs.
At ChargeLab, we’re eager to support our partners as they search for rebates to realize their business goals. Beyond offering deep interoperability, detailed documentation, and expanded real-time reporting coming in 2024, we’re also pleased to share the practical wisdom of two of our team members who are deeply involved with EV charger rebate programs: Lead Program Manager Kristin Stroobosscher and Director of Customer Success Emma Gold-Utting.
Here’s what you need to know to unlock the right EV charger rebates for your business.
The basics of EV charger rebates
Whether you’re looking at the local, state, provincial, or national level, rebates typically come in five different forms:
- Prescriptive rebates: These rebates offer a fixed dollar amount per unit—say, 50% off of each charger or $2,000 off the total cost of a charger install. About 75% of available rebate programs come in this form. Many qualifications relate to the charger or the type and number of ports it offers.
- Make-ready rebates: These programs are often offered for DCFC or Level 3 chargers, as they can be the most expensive to install. Make-ready rebates offset the costs of the chargers themselves as well as any electrical work and construction required for their functioning. You may need to submit a complete project plan ahead of time to qualify.
- Point-of-purchase rebates: Many of these rebates are offered by EV manufacturers or third-party manufacturers and vendors. You simply buy the charger from them at a reduced cost as they handle the rebate process. These programs are often residentially focused.
- Turnkey rebate: These rebates cover everything from the charger itself to the make-ready process to the installation, with installers and suppliers responsible for the application. While turnkeys are currently an uncommon EV charger rebate in the space, Kristin anticipates that “we might start to see more resellers use a turnkey model, where they can offer that type of programmatic benefit as a selling feature so consumers don’t have to go through a make-ready program themself.”
- Case-by-case rebates: This catch-all category covers other types of rebates, such as grants distributed in a variable dollar amount with more complicated criteria.
Whatever type of EV charger rebate you’re going for, their general requirements break down into four categories:
- No requirements: These aren’t very common, though some rebates, such as Ontario’s ChargeON program, only mandate a minimum number of charging ports rather than specific hardware or software.
- Hardware requirements: These rebates require manufacturers, suppliers, or vendors to submit details about their chargers that meet minimum criteria, after which they’re placed on an approved hardware list. Emma notes that one near-universal hardware requirement is Energy Star certification: “It's definitely one that governments look for because the Energy Star requirements are particularly vigorous already, and it is a recognized brand in itself.”
- Software requirements: Rebates with these requirements mandate that you must buy a networked charger that is able to provide a certain level of reporting. Some of Kristin’s work includes finding programs with these requirements and making sure the ChargeLab software is included on their network requirements list.
- Hardware and software requirements: These types of rebates often require the most lengthy application process. They may require working with partners to submit data sheets, pricing sheets, and network information. Once all the requirements are met, both hardware and software are approved together and added to an approved list.
What EV charger rebates cover and how to get them
First, the bad news: No EV charger rebate will completely cover the expenses of EV charger deployment. “They are really designed to help out, but they're not designed to make this free or a fully subsidized activity,” Emma says.
The rebates’ purpose is to reduce barriers toward broader EV adoption. Much of the available funding is currently directed toward DCFC chargers since their speed brings them closer to the experience drivers are used to with gas-operated vehicles: pull off the highway, spend a few minutes refueling, and return to your trip.
But even if that doesn’t match the type of project you have in mind, don’t write off the notion of finding a helpful EV charger rebate. Most programs scale depending on what you’re doing, and following these general tips can help you find success:
- Use publicly available tools such as BriteSwitch to compare all of your potential rebate options and cast a wide net wherever possible.
- If you’re doing an EV charger installation, even a small one, talk to your local utility provider. They may have some programs or initiatives that are not broadly publicized or may otherwise be willing to work with you.
- Keep track of what your local government is doing. Seeking money locally will often yield more immediate funds, and you can follow up with state/provincial or national-level rebates to recoup more of your investment later.
- Be aware that the current political climate can have a major impact on what EV programs are available and when. In short, take advantage of available programs—but be aware that even if the same party retains office, it may change programs to fit a new budget focus.
Where EV charger rebates are headed next
“Anybody who knows anything about tech knows that what we have today isn't necessarily the same as what we will have tomorrow. Things change really quickly,” Kristin notes. “The EV space is catching up to that notion as well. So everyone is aiming to future-proof their programs.”
Many EV charger rebate programs are starting to standardize their hardware and software requirements across national, state, and provincial lines. That standardization will make it much easier for companies, entrepreneurs, and consumers to access more sources of funding.
Emma points to one especially reliable bellwether for industry standards: “A lot of these programs are looking to see what's happening in California. If you’re trying to future-proof your plans for funding or anything like that, we definitely recommend looking at what the requirements are in California. Those will give a pretty good sense of what will be copied across the country and likely North America as a whole.”
One of the most encouraging trends focuses on accessibility.
“Another big requirement that I've started to see everywhere, at least for DCFC funding, is ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliance, which is really good,” Kristin says. “Obviously, we don't want EV charging to be a barrier for people who have accessibility needs. That's now being built right into the programs: You don't get money if you install your charger in an inaccessible place or in an inaccessible way.”
Another prominent trend is a greater emphasis on software requirements—particularly for live, continuous reporting. This kind of reporting allows operators and rebate sponsors to ensure chargers live up to their potential as tools for driving greater access to EVs and reducing emissions from traditional vehicles. That’s why we’re upgrading our software to open up these requirements to even more operators, from national networks to local operators.
Build toward a sustainable future with ChargeLab
The only way to make sure you get the rebates you need is to go out and apply for them. Even when you know what to prioritize and where the industry may be headed next, it’s still about putting in the legwork.
But even though we can’t search out and apply for rebates for you, we’re building the extensively interoperable and well-documented system you need to make the process as easy as possible. We’ll leave it to Emma to sum things up:
“ChargeLab’s in a very good position to help everybody here. We’re really proud of our APIs. We’re really proud of our power management. We’re rebuilding with even better reporting on our road map. We are also still very nimble. So as these program requirements continue to change and evolve, we're able to spin things up and have things move very quickly to continue adhering to these program requirements—as compared to potential juggernauts within the industry.”
Want to learn more about how ChargeLab can help put you on the path toward an effective and profitable EV charging solution? Contact us today.