HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii residents will get cash rebates worth up to $4,500 for buying new electric cars and $250 for upgrading their refrigerators, according to an incentives plan announced Thursday.
The rebate programs rely on about $6 million in federal stimulus money set aside for state energy initiatives.
"It's a very exciting day for our consumers," said Republican Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona. "The two programs that we have here are a big bonus savings for both our consumers as well as our environment."
The electric car rebate is worth 20 percent of the price of a new, highway-capable electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, up to $4,500.
When combined with federal tax credits worth as much as $7,500, customers could see big discounts off the purchase price of electric vehicles like the $32,000 Nissan LEAF, which is expected to arrive in Hawaii early next year, said Ted Liu, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism.
"It is the role of government to try to tip market behavior to the point where the markets take over," Liu said. "We're going to see a lot of natural demand emerging, but it's our role to incentivize the early adopters."
The refrigerator program was compared to the popular 2009 Cash for Clunkers initiative, which rewarded people for replacing gas-guzzling vehicles with more fuel-efficient models.
The rebate is available to people who buy energy efficient refrigerators, which could save residents an additional $100 a year on their power bills while reducing Hawaii's dependence on foreign oil.
"A refrigerator is one of those appliances that just eats up a lot of energy," said Randy Hee, president and CEO of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative. "It takes an old refrigerator that normally ends up in a garage filled with beer off the system."
Besides the electric car and refrigerator money, a rebate worth up to $500 is being offered for the purchase and installation of an electric vehicle charger. Federal charger tax incentives worth up to $2,000 for individuals and $50,000 for businesses also are available.
The rebates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The electric vehicle and charger rebates start Aug. 1, and the refrigerator rebates begin May 24.
The state's electric car rebates can't be used for models shown last week by South Korean manufacturer CT&T when it announced it will build an assembly plant in Hawaii. Those small models aren't intended for highway driving, but the company also will produce freeway vehicles that could get the rebate, Liu said.