According to the Associated Press, the Department of Energy says that electric vehicle (EV) usage in the United States since 1992 has grown over 35 times. Of course, when you look at the numbers, they are still miniscule in an industry that sells over eleven million cars a year in our current slow economic environment. In 1992 just over 1,600 electric cars were in use in the United States. In 2008 the number had grown to almost 57,000. That is somewhere around 1/2 of one percent of all vehicles sold last year. Not much, really. And when the industry gets back to its peak of around 17 million, electric cars will still be a small percentage, even with significant growth from current levels. That is enough to scare our politicians.
Washington State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen has introduced legislation in the state of Washington to tax electric vehicle users for the wear and tear that they cause to the roads of Washington state. The proposed tax, which has been passed by the state Senate but not the House, is a flat $100 annual fee. In comparison, someone that drives a conventional vehicle that gets 23 miles per gallon 12,000 miles per year would pay about $200 per year based on the current gasoline tax of $.375 per gallon. The states of Mississippi, Oregon, and Texas have also looked at some method of taxing electric cars, with none reaching the status of law.
The current debate reflects the desire to encourage EV adoption, but also the needs of the state to maintain their roads. We feel that it is only fair that anyone that uses the roads should be tasked with maintaining them. Including EV drivers. Current tax law taxes fuel based on gallons used, whether gasoline or diesel. This seems fair as heavy trucks that use a lot of diesel fuel, and create proportionately higher wear and tear, pay a high rate of tax. Lighter vehicles that get better fuel economy use less fuel and pay a lesser tax. Electric vehicles should pay their fair share. As the numbers of EVs on the road today are extremely low, we feel that the current debate should be about how to determine what is fair, rather than to create a tax now, and then figure out later if they created the right tax. A simple solution might be to require reporting the odometer reading annually, or when a vehicle is sold, and pay a rate based on mileage driven rather than a flat fee. Then again, government – state or federal – does not seem to be on the lookout for simple solutions.