Dumb Idea of the Day: Washington State's Electric Vehicle Fee

Terrible Idea (At Least for Now)

We all know about the concept of "win-win", an action that provides benefits to both parties. Well, Washington State's legislators seem to be more inclined to pass "lose-lose" laws... The state senate has passed a bill that would charge a $100 annual feel to electric car drivers to "to compensate for the lack of gas taxes they pay." The general concept is not without merit and the amount is not that big - after all, electric cars also use the roads and cause some wear & tear - but the timing is bad.

They're acting at cross-purpose with other governmental (state & federal) tax credits for electric vehicles. What's the point of giving on one side and then take away on the other? They'll only raise very very small sums because its so early in electric car adoption, so it won't really help maintain roads. I'm not even sure if they'll raise enough to pay for what it cost to pass that law and enforce it... In fact, the random variation in miles driven by big trucks on any given day probably causes more wear & tear on Washington's roads than all electric cars combined over 10 years. Big trucks cause exponentially more damage (ie. a truck 100 times heavier than a car might cause 1,000 or 10,000X more damage to a road).

So not only won't they raise much money and do anything for roads, but they'll also slow down electric vehicle adoption -- that's what taxes do, when you tax something, you get less of it, which is why it's better to tax bad things like pollution than good things like work. This is too bad because in a state with lots of hydro power, electric cars are particularly clean.

An Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

Maybe down the road when electric cars are a significant chunk of vehicles on the road, charging a fee for road maintenance will be a good idea. But right now, at this infancy stage, they need to be encouraged, not discouraged. If more money needs to be raised for roads, raising gas taxes is the logical place to look. US has very low gas taxes by world standards, and they haven't kept up with inflation over time, so it's no surprise that there's a budget shortfall. I bet that by raising gas taxes by 0.1 cent you'd raise more money than by squeezing electric car early adopters...

Via AP, ABG

See also: Tesla Finally Unveils Model X Electric Crossover (0-to-60 in Less Than 5 Seconds, Seats 7 Adults, AWD)

Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles