As the electric vehicle industry enters a critical phase, state governments across the country are considering the idea of imposing new fees on drivers of electric cars. The fees are necessary, they say, as a means of replacing gasoline taxes which fund road construction and repair.
The new fees are quite a contrast with the tax incentives offered by many states in 2011, at the start of the electric vehicle roll-out, and the federal tax credit offered to buyers of eco-friendly plug-in electric vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt.
One state lawmaker has introduced legislation to charge fees to plug-in electric car owners every time they recharge their vehicle, either at a public charging station or at home. The move comes despite the fact that there are only two dozen electric vehicles currently registered in the state.
“Whether it is 24 Volt owners in Kansas or 24,000, should they be paying to use the roads on which they drive?” asks state representative Tom Sloan. “If not now, when?”
A legislator is proposing a one-cent fee for every mile driven in an electric vehicle, such as the Volt, the Nissan Leaf or the upcoming Ford Focus Electric.
“One of the only ways we pay for our roadways is through gas tax,” says Rep. Steve Farley. “If they’re not paying into the gas tax system, we need to find a way of closing that loophole and getting them to pay for the roads they use.”
Last year, the potential for lower gas tax revenues prompted the state legislature to hold hearings on a proposed law that would impose a 1.43 cent fee for every mile driven in an electric vehicle registered in the state.
“This is not about penalizing electric vehicle owners,” claims state senator Bruce Starr. “But why should they get a tax-free ride?”
Faced with the kind of budget squeeze facing many states, Minnesota is also considering a per-mile charge on drivers. Gas tax revenues have been impacted by the move toward hybrids, and will only become more critical as electric vehicles gain wide acceptance.
“People want fairness on the way they’re taxed on their roadway system,” says Tom Sorel of the Minnesota Department of Transportation regarding per-mile fees.
Rather than a per-mile charge, the state of Washington considered a flat fee of $100 per electric vehicle. As with the other states, the concern was regarding the loss of gas tax revenues for road repair and maintenance.
“Electric vehicles put just as much wear and tear on our roads as gas vehicles,” notes state senator Mary Margaret Haugen. “This simply ensures that they contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads.”
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