This week Texas was reported as being one of the latest states in which lawmakers are considering ways to collect revenues from owners of electric vehicles which bypass paying gasoline or diesel taxes used for public road system upkeep.
According to the Texas Tribune, all-electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf could be targeted with increased registration fees to offset the perceived inequity. Vehicles like the Chevy Volt, since they also use gasoline, may be exempt, as was the case for similar legislation passed in Washington State recently.
While Texas is still deliberating its options, the impetus to find a way to charge drivers of gas-free vehicles is “on the table,” said state Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo.
Darby, who served as the vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee last legislative session adds his voice to one side of a debate that some EV advocates say sends a mixed message and chilling effect on the adoption of EVs.
Electric vehicles now comprise just 0.5 percent of the U.S. market, have been said to be in their “infancy.” And just like other infants, the EV market is alternately being nursed via a patchwork quilt of federal and state-level subsidies.
Now the prospect of turning around and billing EVs because they bypass having to pay other fees is being said by some to be an equally arbitrary case of one government agency giveth, and another government agency taketh away.
In Washington State’s case, it levied a $100 per year registration fee on EVs for a situation that Texas is now under the gun to figure out.
For the EV adoption landscape, it’s a mixed bag to be sure, and the prospect of added fees on a state-by-state basis appears to be a growing issue for would-be consumers to weigh beyond the state-by-state availability of incentives.
To date, more states offer some form of incentives – paying people in effect to buy or lease EVs. In cases the incentives come to over a couple thousand dollars or more.
EVs are incentivized because they contribute to clean air and energy independence. Since they cost comparably more than gas vehicles their buyers have been understood to be giving back to society in other tangible ways.
But some state lawmakers facing looming costs, and perceiving also that EV users are getting away with something are grasping for ways to pay for roadway maintenance and improvements.
An argument that has held sway among these – including those disinclined to see EVs in as positive a light in the first place – is that since electric vehicles use roads, and gas taxes are used to pay for them, EV users must pay somehow too.
In Texas, the majority of funding is garnered from 38.4 cents per gallon in fees levied in state and federal taxes.
“I think we need to make sure that electric vehicles that tear up our roads pay their fair share,” Darby said. “Should we have the same registration fee for fuel-burning vehicles as electric vehicles?”
On the other hand – and aside from the understanding that EVs ought to be given a pass for the time being – EV users often recharge their vehicle at home and the electricity from the grid is also taxed.
This point was made by a spokesman from EV advocacy group Plug-in Texas who furthermore stated that the organization thought it was too early to be taxing EVs.
In the vast state of Texas, Plug-in Texas estimates there may be only about 2,000 electric cars on the roads, in all.
“EV adoption will take time, so it will be many years before gasoline tax revenues are noticeably impacted,” Keene said. “We would ask that any funding formula to impose a tax on EVs be studied and thoughtfully piloted by the Legislature.”
HybridCars.com also contacted Plug in America for its comments on the subject, and the California-based group said it had been dealing with these issues already, and shot back ready responses.
“After reviewing everything out there, I came to the same conclusion everybody else does: VMT (vehicle miles traveled, with a weight adjustment) is the most fair system for all cars,” said Plug In America Vice President, Chad Schwitters. “But legislators always seem to pair it with mandatory GPS systems, which are expensive, intrusive, and have lots of opponents for privacy reasons; so it never goes anywhere. Self-reporting with fines for underreporting when there is a check (car sale, car inspection, dealer service, etc) or just a check when the car is in for an annual inspection (currently required in over half of major metro areas for other reasons) are much simpler and cheaper and would have much less opposition.”
Adding his comment to Schwitters’, the group’s legislative director, Jay Friedland said legislators should continue to give a pass to EVs until a certain minimum are able to be adopted.
“In addition, a balanced policy would have the first 100,000 EVs in any state should be exempted to support the market introduction of these vehicles which help reduce our dependence on petroleum and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollution,” Friedland said. “Kids in Texas get asthma too.”