Free parking for EVs is still widely available, but the free ride may be coming to an end. Photo courtesy Orin Zebest via flickr and Creative Commons license.
Discovering EVs was, for many of us interested in sustainable transportation, like falling in love with the wrong person. First that honeymoon period when the new love could do no wrong - no fossil fuels! reduced carbon footprint! energy independence! - then the uncertainty and doubt - EVs will make us build more coal plants? - and finally the realization that this new electric vehicle love wasn't perfect.
The same remorse and disappointment some of us experienced when the EV honeymoon ended is spreading to the regulatory world, as cash-poor states begin to grok that electric vehicles don't participate in the road-repair revenue gathering known as the gas tax.No cause for surprise then that there is currently a bill before the Oregon legislature that proposes electric vehicle drivers pay a "vehicle road usage charge," starting with model year 2014 electric vehicles and plug-in gas-electric hybrids, according to the Eugene Register-Guard.
Since EVs don't stop at the pump, they don't contribute to the gas tax or maintenance. Oregon already felt the fiscal pain as people began to drive more efficient cars and slowed driving during the recession. That makes the gas tax a lame instrument in a new era of non-gas-driven vehicles.
The state did an innovative pilot study back in 2007 that tried to use GPS to track vehicles' movements and keep track of their miles in order to develop a system that would charge road users on a per mile basis. Privacy advocates cried foul, but the system was also hailed as a way to make road use payments more equitable and disincentivize driving.
In this road usage charge bill, Oregon is attempting to resurrect the GPS system, or suggesting something like it, in order to keep track of electric vehicles' odometers and charge users for their mileage.
According to the task force, an EV driver going 15,000 miles a year would be charged about $90, or $.06 cents per mile starting in 2014, when approximately 17,000 EVs are expected to be on Oregon's roads.
But if EV users are going to be charged for every mile they drive, why not eliminate the gas tax altogether (it is considered by many to be regressive) and change all road users over to a per mile vehicle charge? Including (taking into account the smaller amount of damage they do to roads) bicycle users? And how about charging studded tire users much more for their miles, since the wear and tear on roads is so much more extensive?
EV love may be starting to tarnish, yet perhaps we should think through how to properly incentivize the transport that we want, before throwing another tax into the mix.
More EV love:
10 Things That Could Suddenly Make Americans Love Electric Vehicles
Why We Need Electric Car Subsidies
Why Cars Have to Go Electric (forum)
Less EV love:
Rush Limbaugh: Electric Cars Are Overpriced AIDS Ribbons
How Close Are We to a Green Transportation (Forum)
Green Overload: 5 Green Products We Don't Need More Of