The state needs the money to keep the roads in good condition.
The Texas State Senate and House of Representatives are in the process of finding a way to tax EV drivers for using its roads. Texas currently uses the fairest system possible, which is taxing every gallon of fuel sold. That money raised is then used to maintain existing infrastructure and build new roads.
It's a basic 'user pays' system, but EV owners aren't paying, even though they're still allowed to use the road. According to the Houston Chronicle, state officials are looking at a $200 annual registration fee, which will make up for the shortfall, estimated to be $93.4 million. Texas is not the first state to investigate ways of getting EV owners to pay up.
For now, the $93 million shortfall from owners who have already converted to cars like the Tesla Model Y is arguably insignificant to the $3.78 billion the state raised from fuel taxes in 2022. But the Biden-Harris administration is pushing hard to increase electric charging infrastructure, and cheaper electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Equinox will soon flood the market.
In short, that $93 million figure is set to grow in the coming years, and the state needs to find a way for EV drivers to contribute to its roads budget.
There is reasoning behind the $200 figure. Texas currently takes 20¢ from every gallon of fuel. The more gas your vehicle consumes, the more tax you pay. This is also fair, as gas guzzlers tend to be heavy vehicles, which do the most damage to roads. We can demonstrate using two cars on opposite sides of the spectrum.
A Ford F-150 Raptor has an EPA-estimated average fuel consumption of 15 mpg. If the owner covers 15,000 miles annually, their tax contribution is roughly $200. The most frugal Toyota Corolla (non-hybrid) only uses 35 mpg on average, which works out to approximately $85.
As you can see, there's an argument for not imposing a standard fee because some EVs do less damage than others. The Hummer EV infamously weighs more than 9,000 pounds, while the heaviest Chevrolet Bolt only weighs 3,624 lbs.
Why is weight important? Just think about how potholes are formed. Water seeps underneath the tarmac and opens a hole. A vehicle comes along and punches the tarmac down into the hole until it eventually cracks, falls apart, and washes away. With that in mind, would it be fair to charge the Hummer and Bolt the same fee, especially when the Bolt is likely to be worse affected?
Even EV-friendly California charges electric car owners a Road Improvement Fee. It started at $100 per year but currently stands at $108 because the cost is adjusted according to the consumer price index. Arkansas is even stricter, charging $200 for BEVs, $100 for plug-in hybrids, and $50 for regular hybrids. Keep in mind that owners of plug-in hybrids and hybrids also still pay the standard fuel tax.
Naturally, not everyone is happy, but it boils down to what's fair. If you use the road, you need to pay. It's the calculation of said payment that's the real problem.
The state of Washington is also investigating ways to tax EV drivers and is proposing a fee based on mileage. Already people are causing a stir because tracking mileage would also result in tracking a bunch of other stuff you don't necessarily want the government to know, like possible speeding infringements and where you travel regularly. People tend to forget they have a smartphone-sized locator in their pockets at all times anyway.
We're of the opinion that it doesn't need to be complex. The government can use a good faith system as it does with taxes or tell EV drivers to pop into an inspection center once a year so the mileage covered can be confirmed. We don't think that counts as a privacy infringement.
If you have any better ideas, we'd love to hear them.
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