Washington State considering $100 annual tax on EVs

by Ernie Hernandez on February 16, 2012

If not now, when?

The Washington State Senate has passed a bill (31 in favor, 16 opposed) that would require a $100 annual fee, in addition to existing registration and license fees, for all electric vehicles. The bill goes on to the House Committee on Transportation next week. We don’t know that this ultimately should be the model of use fee generation, but it is one option.

This bill was passed by the Senate last year, but not by the House. Introduced by Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, Democrat, Camano Island, Senator Haugen said that electric cars put the same wear and tear on public roads that gas cars do. We agree.

We have already seen various state agencies trying to come to terms with this change to the transportation system. Gasoline taxes make up a significant portion of the funds that go toward maintaining the road system – be it in California, Illinois, Washington or Texas. Where cars drive on roads, funds are needed to maintain them. As electric vehicles (EVs) gain in popularity, every state will need to come to terms with this changing mode of transportation. Driving around in your own neighborhood, when have you not complained about a road surface somewhere. Any entity, be it Federal, State or County, that currently imposes a fuel tax for transportation system maintenance will need to consider taking similar measures.

When looking to impose these changes, more than just electric vehicles need to be considered. The changing technology of the automotive industry must be evaluated as well. The Volt, for instance, is a plug-in hybrid. It will not be subjected to this new tax, but if driven only on short trips around town, will also not be subject to the gasoline tax for the most part. Yet it too will create its own amount of wear and tear. Toyota will be arriving with its own plug-in hybrid soon, and others will certainly follow. Proposed legislation will need to consider all modes of alternative fuel vehicles to ensure that each pays their fair share.

Current taxation (inadvertantly?) rewards high fuel economy vehicles, by having them pay lower taxes through lower fuel consumption. There is some logic here though – generally lighter weight cars return better fuel economy than heavier cars, trucks and SUVs. California takes this into account for commerical vehicles by charging these heavier vehicles a greater registration fee. Heavier vehicles take a greater toll on road surfaces.

But let’s take a look at our sub-headline – If not now, when?

We have heard it argued that taxing EVs will only slow their adoption further. We disagree. There is already a federal tax incentive, with some states and even employers offering incentives of their own. And even in those states that offer little or no incentive, EVs are still being purchased. To state that there should be some random percent of EVs on the road prior to adopting fair share taxation seems self serving on the part of early adopters. EV drivers should help pay for the roads that they drive on, just as gasoline and diesel powered vehicle drivers currently do.

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