Jun 5, 2024 - News

Minnesota's e-bike rebate website crash brings fury

an illustration of an electric bicycle surrounded by circles and cutouts of dollar bills

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

As eager Minnesotans logged on this morning hoping to snag a new state-funded electric bike rebate, the website quickly crashed and prompted a social media firestorm.

Why it matters: Whether it's Taylor Swift tickets or St. Paul swimming lessons, few things upset people more than glitches like this.

State of play: After two and a half hours of limbo, the Minnesota Department of Revenue, which is administering the rebates, announced the application process would be postponed and apologized for the inconvenience.

  • "We are working with our external technology vendors engaged for this program to understand and fix the technical issues on the site," the DOR said in a news release.

Catch up fast: The Legislature allocated $2 million in the 2024 and 2025 budgets to provide instant rebates for Minnesotans to purchase e-bikes.

  • The discount would reduce the price by between 50% to 75% — capped at $1,500 — depending on an applicant's income.

Yes, but: $2 million only covers about 1,300 rebates if people use the full $1,500.

  • One of Minnesota's biggest bike dealers, Erik's, wrote that an estimated 20,000 e-bikes were sold in the state in 2023.

Between the lines: People knew competition would be fierce, and that's why so many were logged on and ready at 11am for the first-come, first-served application.

The intrigue: Social media users erupted in anger, with the most common question being: Why didn't the state opt for a lottery system to avoid a system overload?

  • The 2023 bill that authorized the rebates required the DOR commissioner to administer the rebates on a first-come, first-served basis.

What's next: The DOR has directed people to sign up for email updates about when the application process will start again.

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