City climate czar Steve Winter: E-bikes are a "big step to fill gaps in our transit system." Paul Bass / New Haven Independent

Eco-minded New Haveners, and other Connecticut residents looking to get out of their cars and onto two battery-assisted wheels, will soon be able to apply for up to $1,500 in state-subsidized vouchers to help cover the costs of purchasing a new electric bicycle.

That’s thanks to a new incentive program put forward by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The voucher program formally opens to the public on Wednesday, June 28.

On Tuesday night, Max Teirstein, the policy analyst for New Haven’s Office of Climate and Sustainability, presented on that e‑bike subsidy program at the latest monthly meeting of the Whalley-Edgewood-Beaver Hills (WEB) Community Management Team, which was held online via Zoom.

The state’s program offers a $500 voucher to all Connecticut residents aged 18 years and up. It offers an additional $1,000 incentive to those who also reside in Environmental Justice communities or distressed municipalities, including New Haven. Residents who participate in certain income-qualifying programs such as Medicaid or Head Start, or who have an income less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, which currently translates to $90,000 for a family of four, can also apply for the extra $1,000.

Teirstein told the group of 20 neighbors assembled online for Tuesday’s meeting that his office is working on getting the word out to New Haveners who may want to utilize this lower-cost car-alternative mode of transport.

During a follow-up call on Wednesday, city climate office Director Steve Winter praised e‑bikes as a ​“big step to fill gaps in our transit system.” He said he hopes residents of neighborhoods like Dixwell and other environmentally impacted parts of town take advantage of this ​“generous” program.

After Teirstein’s presentation on Tuesday, WEB neighbors like management team Chair Rebecca Cramer asked Teirstein which stores they can use the discount at and if they can get a free e‑bike through this $1,500 voucher.

Teirstein noted that The Devil’s Gear and College Street Cycles shops in downtown New Haven are participating in the program. Participants can purchase select bikes priced under $3,000 and with a one-year warranty. All three classes of eligible bikes have motors that cease to engage once the bike reaches 20 or 28 miles per hour. 

Neighbors asked if they might be able to acquire a bike under $1,500 for free. While Teirstein was hesitant to guarantee free bikes, his office recommends those interested attend the Connecticut Electric Bicycle Incentive Program’s webinar on how to apply and eligibility specifics on Thursday at noon.

Also during Tuesday’s WEB management team meeting, Susan Young spoke to attendees about a recently launched ​“Solar for All” campaign by the city’s climate office and the private solar panel-leasing company PosiGen.

The campaign seeks to provide New Haven residents with a cost-effective alternative to fossil-fueled energy systems. According to Young, solar panels have historically been limited to people with the resources to pay a $30,000 down payment. PosiGen enables families to go solar and make their homes more energy efficient regardless of income or location.

Unlike many companies, PosiGen’s minimal criteria extends to property owners with sufficient southern sun exposure, regardless of the customer’s ability to place a down payment, Young told the WEB neighbors. A consultation with the company entails not only solar paneling, but also addresses issues such as lackluster insulation and faulty lighting systems.

The only question she received from the crowd was, ​“So, even people who can’t pay upfront are eligible for PosiGen’s services?”

Young replied, ​“Renewable energy shouldn’t be reserved for people who meet certain criteria, because everyone is suffering when it comes to high electric bills.”

This story was first published June 21, 2023 by New Haven Independent.