Saturday, December 2, 2017


Several states have adopted or proposed special taxes and fees for electric-car drivers. which are supposed to make up for lost revenue from taxes on the fuel their drivers don't buy.

Electric-car advocates typically view these policies as discriminatory, and claim they work against efforts to get more people into plug-ins.However, proponents claim electric-car taxes will help provide sorely-needed infrastructure funding. And it's hardly a secret that most state's highways could use the funds.

That's the argument made in a recent article in Roll Call, whose author claims that these taxes suggest an alternative path to highway funding beyond the gas tax--which advances in fuel efficiency are rendering less lucrative.                                                                                                                 Five states--Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington--have already instituted electric-car taxes, and they may soon be joined by Wisconsin.

Last month, that state's Department of Transportation proposes a $50 annual registration fee for electric cars--on top of the standard fees paid by all motorists--which opponents say would penalize drivers for buying cleaner vehicles.

The state portion of the Wisconsin gas tax is 32.9 cents per gallon, so even drivers of a high gas-mileage car like the Toyota Prius hybrid--rated at 50 mpg combined--will pay just under $100 in fuel taxes each year, assuming the U.S. average of 15,000 miles driven.

The electric-car driver, meanwhile, simply pays the $50 fee. Drive that plug-in vehicle more than 15,000 miles, and the tax rate per mile decreases even further.

It's the same story in Washington state, which has a $100 electric-car registration fee, and a gas tax of 37.5 cents per gallon.

The difference is smaller, but the hypothetical Prius driver still pays more per year, at $112.50.

Washington also has a high percentage of electric cars on its roads. It's one of only three states with three or more electric cars per 1,000 vehicles registered.                                                       Electric cars also come out ahead in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Carolina--the flat fee for electric cars adds up to less than the taxes on a year's worth of gasoline.

The only state where electric cars are taxed more than gasoline cars is Virginia, thanks to the combination of a low state gas tax--11.7 cents per gallon--and two extra fees for plug-in vehicles.

The state has a $64.00 annual alternative-fuel vehicle registration tax, and electric-car owners pay $50.00 fee on top of that. Electric-car drivers in Virginia pay $114.00 per year in fees, but would fork over just $35.10 in gas taxes for a 50-mpg car.

So while annual fees may not be an ideal replacement for the gas tax, most electric-car drivers have thus far avoided paying higher taxes than their gasoline-driving counterparts.Still, electric-car taxes present several problems.
For example, they don't account for out-of-state drivers--and it's eminently possible for states to boost plug-in taxes to exceed those paid by gasoline cars if legislators want to.

The situation becomes murkier when dealing with the most-efficient internal-combustion cars.
The proposed Wisconsin tax also applies to hybrids--which Virginia taxed until recently.
That penalizes drivers of fuel-sipping cars, who would have to pay an extra fee on top of the gas tax on the fuel they use.