Sonoma Clean Power offers incentives for customers to ‘drive electric’

Eleanor Butchart of Santa Rosa is the proud owner of a Mercedes-Benz B250e, the last letter meaning electric. The white compact hatchback is “fun to drive,” she said, seats four to five adults comfortably and has plenty of curb appeal. “It looks like a normal car,” she said, rather than a radically stylized EV or hybrid.

What it lacks is a tank for gasoline, which currently costs $3.70 a gallon in Santa Rosa, up 77 cents from a year ago. Butchart is planning to install solar panels at her home, reducing the cost of recharging.

Like all other Mercedes, the B250e she bought last year wasn’t cheap, but the price was eased by a $2,000 incentive Butchart obtained from Sonoma Clean Power, the public electricity provider serving Sonoma and Mendocino counties, along with a $500 rebate from PG&E. “It was a sweet deal all around,” Butchart said.

The good deals for electric vehicles will be back on the table starting today, when Sonoma Clean Power launches its third and final Drive EV program, offering its customers incentives of up to $4,000 for the lease or purchase of 25 models of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars sold by six local dealers.

The power company has budgeted $1.5 million for the program running through Nov. 16, and if funds run out before that date, CEO Geof Syphers said he would ask the board of directors to authorize more.

Promoting EVs is consistent with Sonoma Clean Power’s goal of addressing climate change and also creates more demand for electricity, he said. An EV that drives for seven or eight years around the area consumes enough power to pay for the incentive, Syphers said.

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