TORONTO - The Ontario government will offer consumers a rebate of between $5,000 and $8,500 if they buy a new plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle after July 1.

But the rebates will only be offered to the first 10,000 applicants who qualify, the government said Friday.

Details of eligibility for the rebate were not immediately available, but the government said it would provide full criteria and application forms on the Ministry of Transportation's website beginning July 1.

Ontario is aiming to have one out of every 20 vehicles in the province be electrically powered by 2020. The government said it will also offer green licence plates that will allow people driving environmentally friendly vehicles to use carpool lanes even if there is only one person in the vehicle.

"We've made and will continue to make steady progress building the groundwork for Ontario's electric vehicle market," Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said in a statement.

Currently, none of the major automakers sell purely electric vehicles in Canada, but many expect to have fully battery-powered cars on the market by 2012.

Nissan, which will launch its fully electric-powered Leaf in Canada by late next year, applauded the rebates.

"As manufacturers ramp up production of electric vehicles, incentives like this are an important way to ensure they can compete with traditional internal combustion engine vehicles that already have the cost benefits of mass production," stated Mark McDade, director of marketing with Nissan Canada.

Nissan has not said yet how much the Leaf will cost in Canada, but in the United States it has priced the electric car at US$32,700.

In the U.S., people who buy plug-in vehicles are eligible for a US$7,500 federal tax credit. There is no nationally available incentive in Canada.