Are You Gonna Pay for That? A Response to EV Road Usage Fees
03.07.2017 - by Katherine Stainken
Are You Gonna Pay for That? A Response to EV Road Usage Fees

Since the start of the new year, Plug in America has been alerted to a number of bills in states that would impose road usage fees for EVs. As reported this week by the New York Times, fees are cropping up throughout the country. Just when EVs are starting to gain more traction among all consumers, and more states are considering supportive policies (purchase incentives, car pool stickers, and charging station rebates, for example) to increase adoption, it frustrates us to have to step back from our positive momentum and address road blocks like fees. These are annoying thorns in advocates’ sides, yet, if left unaddressed, could cause some serious damage to EV adoption.

In fact, fees simply hinder the adoption of EVs. And while EV drivers should eventually pay our fair share of the wear and tear for using the roads, that time is not now. Legislators need to realize that until EVs reach a certain threshold of all light-duty vehicles on the road in a state, they shouldn’t be incentivized on the one hand and punished on the other. Fewer than 1% of drivers nationwide will not make up the deficit of funding needed to repair roads and balance state budgets. EVs provide more of a win-win for every state right now than any alleged lost revenue from gas taxes. Plus, road usage fees for EVs would be a double tax, since drivers already pay electricity taxes to power their vehicles.

…until EVs reach a certain threshold of all light-duty vehicles on the road in a state, they shouldn’t be incentivized on the one hand and punished on the other.

But on the bright side, these road fees are our wake up call. We anticipated that getting to mass deployment of EVs on the road would involve some battles, and now we know that those battles are here. EVs are now perceived as a legitimate threat to the status quo.

If you live in California, despite all the forward momentum in the state to put more EVs on the road, SB 1 and AB 1 would seek to impose a punitive road usage fee on EV drivers. SB 1 would impose a $100 fee, and AB 1 a $165 fee.  Make your voice heard by clicking here to contact your California Senator and Assemblymember and SAY NO to road usage fees NOW.


For those of you that live in Oklahoma, we have an active action alert right now.
Please contact your Oklahoma State Senator and oppose HB 1449 as it heads to the Senate. This bill would impose a $100 fee on EV drivers, nearly triple the amount for gas car drivers.

We’ll continue to monitor these road usage fees in all states and send out action alerts when we need your help to keep EV momentum going strong. Stay tuned for more.

29 comments on “Are You Gonna Pay for That? A Response to EV Road Usage Fees”
  1. Bobby Fore says:

    I fail to see Plug In America’s logic on this; their position is that there aren’t enough EVs on the road to do very much to address the $59 billion shortfall in the roads budget because there are only 275,000 EVs on the road. Doesn’t it have to start somewhere? Why do they suggest waiting until there are a massive number of EVs on the road before asking them to pay for the damage they are doing to the roads? If it is 1 vehicle, 1,000 vehicles or 1,000,000 vehicles, the tax is to pay for the wear and tear done by “each” vehicle. Even with paying a $165 usage fee, the average EV owner will still come out ahead over buying gasoline. Asking to be exempted from paying for the usage of the roads because you drive an EV is just silly and an obvious dodge of the responsibility to be accountable for paying for the roads like all the non-EV drivers. Fight to make the dollar amount fairer, like $75 or $100 versus $165, but to whine about having to pay your share… Well shame on Plug In America on this one.

  2. Steven says:

    Do some research and you will find these anti EV bills come from ALEC, which recently changed its name due to exposure of all the shadowy bills it writes to benefit it’s billionaire members, and or, advance the interests of the oil industry. and then handed over to state legislators to pass in exchange for election cash. We tax things we want to discourage like tobacco products because they cause serious heath affects. Fossil fueled vehicle owners should also pay higher taxes for this same reason. We should not be taxing things we want to encourage like EV adoption. Oregon is also trying to make fuel efficient vehicles and EVs pay more through it’s Orego program in which a large pickup truck pays less road tax and EVs and hybrids pay more. They want to install a tracking system in every ones cars connected to cell towers and then send out a bill for miles driven rather than gas tax at the pump. Taxing the few thousand EVs on the road in Oregon would raise practically nothing toward road repair and maintenance and would just discourage EV adoption in the state. And do we really want tracking devices installed in our cars?

  3. Ron Peterson says:

    Trucks cause the most road wear, so they should have higher taxes.
    High population densities cause road congestion, so real estate should
    be taxed high rises and stadiums.

  4. xrayangiodoc says:

    I own a Tesla Model S and see no reason why I shouldn’t be asked to pay for my share of road maintenance. All other drivers pay this via gasoline taxes which obviously I don’t. Since electric cars are not yet able to levitate I can’t get too incensed about a fee to make up for the free ride on road taxes.

  5. Rick Smith says:

    I do not have an electric vehicle yet, but I could see a $100 fee for road use. Looking at 10Kmiles per year in a econ car running say 40 MPG would use about 250 gallons a year. The California excise tax on gas is $0.395 per gallon, which puts the tax for that example at $98.75. I am not including sales tax or cap-and-trade taxes (that get passed on to use by oil companies) because they should not apply. I do suppose the Feds would like to get in on the money for the Highway Trust Fund, so that would be another $46. So, it is reasonable.

  6. Gawain Tomlinson says:

    I live in San Diego, CA, and I am a member of my local Planning Group. Because of my participation in the Planning Group, I received notices of many public meetings. I recently attended a meeting at CalTrans where they were reviewing the currently available data from the California EV Use Tax Pilot Program.

    When EVs and Hybrids first became market-viable, I saw the eventual necessity of some sort of replacement for taxes that are collected through fuel taxes. After all, there are no free rides; you either pay for road maintenance and other tax supported services, or you don’t get them. Not only are EVs eroding the tax base, but internal combustion vehicle efficiency improvements are also eroding the tax base.

    The CA program proposes a mileage based tax with a rate structure that takes into consideration variables such as miles driven, vehicle efficiency, carbon emissions, gross vehicle weight, and other factors. I believe this structure is more fair than the flat fee structure being considered in some states, but it is more cumbersome and expensive to administer..

    Because of California’s leadership in environmental abatement, I also foresee increasing tax penalties for hydrocarbon burning vehicles in the future.

  7. vdiv says:

    One of the push-back on driving electric is that we are considered free-loaders. Just because incentives work does not make them right or just. EVs are better than that, can hold their own. We want people to take responsibility, not be absolved by it. EVs will not be successful if they are perennially on life support. I am OK with reasonable registration fees.

    1. Steven says:

      It doesn’t feel right or just that people with asthma and other health conditions should have to sit behind a vehicle in traffic pumping out poison. Who is going to pay the health care bill ? It doesn’t feel right or just that our grand kids will not have a livable climate because of these vehicles. When the poison gas, carbon emitting vehicles are off the road I’ll be happy to pay road taxes. It’s time to ban the internal combustion engine as the EU is doing.

  8. Brian says:

    This is not about whether EV drivers DO or DON’T want to pay to “use” roads. Many states have an incentive to drive an electric vehicle and yet want a disincentive to pay for roads. Excuse me?

    Many EV drivers have made considerable personal sacrifices in convenience and in purchasing a car considerably more expensive than they would otherwise.

    Raise the gas taxes. Consider increased vehicle MPG figures in the decline of overall gas tax revenues. Wean the public off of the subsidies for oil and gas. When the majority of the public sees the sense of driving an EV, then we can worry about the cents of it, all while enjoying a breath of fresh air!

  9. tiburonh says:

    I have no problem paying a reasonable road usage fee. I actually feel guilty getting away without paying my fair share of taxes for maintaining the roads I use. And $100 a year seems like a bargain.

  10. Jim Culp says:

    A $2500 check and getting to use the HOV lanes solo are strong incentives from CA to purchase an EV. A hybrid that gets 45 MPG, driven 12k miles, currently pays $164 in state taxes. I’m not going to complain about having to pay my share of the road tax.

  11. Alejandro Burgana says:

    Then a Carbon Tax should be instated as well, for all the pollution caused by regular gas-powered vehicles (20 lbs of CO2 per gallon of gasoline)

    1. Ron Miller says:

      So very, very true. Extra taxation on EV drivers seems fair at first until you realize that it’s discouraging people who’d otherwise like to stop polluting the air and contributing mightily to atmospheric CO2 build-up.
      It’s ironic that the Federal government and some states are giving tax credits to EV purchasers for exactly this reason when other states are levying taxes that can have a contrary result.

  12. Bill Pro says:

    Right on Ross! Even though I paid twice what an ICE powered Nissan would have cost, I’ll still be saving a great deal over the cost of gasoline. A hundred and sixty bucks won’t break me. Here in La La Land, the price for regular gas stands today at about $3.00 per gal. My Leaf will cover the $150 license fee in no time at all, probably in one month of driving. The next eleven months will be free of taxes. Sounds like a bargain to me. And I WILL pick my battles, for there are more important things to worry about in this world.

  13. Sean Mitchell says:

    I don’t see an issue with this. If you use the roads and the tax goes toward improvements and repairs, why not?

  14. Jamie says:

    The link to write your assemblymember is broken, you guys should fix it.

    Ross, absolutely this should be complained about. If my car ran on gasoline, I would pay about $15 of taxes per year, given the mileage I drive and the efficiency of my car. So a $165 fee means I would be paying ELEVEN TIMES more than an equivalent gasoline vehicle, which is absolutely absurd. There are many, many other reasons this is a bad idea. There’s no justification for it. It’s a move to punish EVs and to try to quash them before they get off the ground, the lobbying effort has been explicitly funded by the oil and gas industry. There is no reason that anyone should consider this acceptable.

    1. The link is fixed. Please use and spread the word: take action now. Thanks Jamie, for the tip. – MK Campbell, Plug In America

  15. Charlene Woodcock says:

    The link for Calif drivers comes up blank on my computer.

    We should all stress that what is needed is a carbon fee based on the value of the car (very low for old cars, very high for Hummers like Schwarzenegger’s) that could be directed in part to highway maintenance

  16. Mickey McCarthy says:

    CA link would not work.

  17. Ross says:

    I would not complain about a $100 annual fee. Just tack that on my EV’s license plate renewal. In Michigan we have 26.3 cents per gallon road tax at the pump. That is $100 road tax per 380 gallons of fuel purchased. That would be about 16,720 miles of driving my 2008 Prius at 44 MPG. Sure I don’t like extra fees – but I would pick my battles.

    1. Ron Miller says:

      Yes, that’s the way I look at it, too. However, if EV owners are being charged a tax to use roads, it would be only fair for them to be relieved of some of the taxes on their electricity.

  18. Reony Tonneyck says:

    In Virginia too, it’s the last state to have tax property fees and get charged higher tax property fees than something like an SUV!! This is outrageous and I had to return my BMW i3 because of this. I am driving a Nissan Leaf now, but my tax property fee is still ridiculous. It’s a very political, on top of other reasons from what I understand. If there can be any help on who we would send a letter to about this (thought this was left to Virginia Dept. of Transportation), would be much appreciated.

  19. Ralph Anderson says:

    If fees where based on engine operating hours, the idling but not moving vehicle impact would be discouraged.

  20. Rexford Haugen says:

    Hopefully states will apply road usage fees that are calculated on vehicle weight and annual distance driven to all vehicles. It would encourage smarter city growth and transit development and if they leave the fuel taxes in place, they can act like a GHG tax.

    1. Otto Sayas says:

      If only. Here in Oregon, rather than raise fuel taxes they jacksed up registration fees. So, Granny’s 4500 miles per year BEV pays the same for roads than her grandson’s 20,000 mile Hummer. Are politicians simpletons, or completely corrupt?

      1. Ron Miller says:

        Politicians of both parties are interested mainly in re-election to their very sweet jobs. Their secondary interests are far removed from the constant need to be raising money and campaigning. When they do consider a new law or regulation, their vote almost always goes to the interest of their biggest donors. This is Government By Special Interest, NOT democracy. The framers of the Constitution created a government to serve the people but since FDR’s New Deal, we’ve been in a constant slide that has changed us citizens from those served by government to those who, in the view of politicians, exist to serve government. So, the answer is that they are neither simpletons nor corrupt, they’re just totally, though not shamelessly, self-serving. If you ever get a chance to vote for stringent term limits on legislators, PLEASE do so. It’s the only thing that might save us from the government that was created to serve us.

    2. Dennis Morgan says:

      I have had two Spark EVs participating in the California Road Charge Pilot program. This program simulates charging light duty vehicle drivers by the mile and, where required for a ICE vehicle, refunds back some or all of the gasoline taxes paid at the pump – the amount refunded depends on the combined EPA average for the ICE vehicle. My experience so far shows this to be a fair program for all drivers. The big question is how to implement the program across all vehicles in California.

  21. Dennis Morgan says:

    What is the annual mpg value for the California light vehicle fleet for each of the last 10 years?
    i suspect these values have not changed so much as to justify placing all of the blame for declining revenues on high numbers of high efficiency vehicles joining the fleet. Too many states are suddenly singing the same song.

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