Monday, July 15, 2024

Should EVs Be Taxed?

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“Talking Transportation”

By Jim Cameron
President
CAMERON COMMUNICATIONS INC
Author: “Off The Record: Confessions of a Media Consultant

Awhile back I was in Greenwich doing one of my regular talks about transportation and conducted a quick poll, asking the crowd “how many of you drive EVs (all-electric vehicles)?”   Being Greenwich, about five hands went up.  I congratulated the early adopters of cleaner driving and then said, “You know you’re not paying for our highways… and that’s not fair.”

It’s true.  Drivers of EVs are literally getting a free ride on our highways because they don’t buy gasoline and don’t pay gas taxes, which are used to pay for the maintenance and repair of our roads.

Full disclosure:  I drive a Prius hybrid that gives me double the mileage of my old Honda, so I’m half a freeloader, buying only half the gasoline I used to.

The point is… EV drivers should be paying for our roads just like everybody else. Why?  Because EVs beat up our highways more than traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) cars.

Due to their batteries, EVs are super heavy.  A Tesla model X weight over 5000 pounds compared to the average American ICE which weighs 3750 pounds.  Heavier vehicles cause more damage to our roads than lighter ones and should pay accordingly.

Instead, EV buyers are given discounts.  When you buy most new EVs, you can get a $7,500 tax credit, effectively lowering your purchase price.  Many utility companies will also give you a rebate for installing a home charging system.

And, don’t forget that $7.5 billion in federal money is being used to build 500,000 commercial EV charging stations across the US, one every 50 miles on our interstates.

Without those charging stations drivers won’t buy EVs and we’ve already seen sales slowdown this year as a result.  In fact, the plug-in hybrid vehicles (that run on gasoline and electric) are in hottest demand.

We need to encourage, not mandate by law, a conversion from gasoline to electric powered vehicles to preserve what is left of our environment.

But how to get EV owners, most of whom are probably well-off financially if they can afford one, to pay their fair share for the roads they drive on?

Thirty states are now charging EV owners a registration fee of up to $400 to make up for their lost gas tax revenue.  Other states are also adding a surcharge to electric bills:  the bigger the EV, the more electricity it needs for the miles it drives, the more its owner will pay.

Of course, all this could change with the upcoming Presidential election.  Donald Trump doesn’t believe in global warming or EVs, claiming their adoption will cause a “bloodbath” in the US auto industry costing 40% of its jobs.

Should he be re-elected, Trump 2.0 could easily overturn much of the Biden administration’s plans and upend the EV business far more than a small EV tax to pay for our roads.

As for Connecticut EV owners, good news.  Our state’s Special Transportation Fund has so much money from gasoline tax revenues that no EV tax is contemplated here… for now.

Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. His weekly column “Talking Transportation” is archived here.  You can contact Jim at [email protected].”

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