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Nissan Leaf
Washington is looking to recoup lost revenue from EV drivers

Owners of electric vehicles like the Nissan Leaf (100-mile driving range) and the Tesla Roadster (211-mile driving range) have the advantage of traveling on America's roads without having to spend a penny on gasoline. And even though the Chevrolet Volt uses a gasoline engine when its battery pack is exhausted, some drivers have managed to average 1,000 miles between gas stops.

The State of Washington, however, isn't too keen on EV drivers skirting the state's gas tax, which helps to maintain the roads that EV drivers travel on every day. According to the Associated Press, Washington has a $5 billion dollar deficit, and hitting the pockets of EV owners is just one way to help close the gap. 

Washington's gas excise tax is one of the highest in the nation at 49.4 cents per gallon [PDF] -- 31 cents of the total is from the state, while the federal tax is 18.4 cents. Assuming that the average driver travels about 12,000 miles per year, a Nissan Leaf driver (EPA rated 99 mpg) would only be skipping out on $38 of the state's portion of gasoline excise tax. For a Chevrolet Volt driver (EPA rated 93 mpg on battery power), the tax revenue lost by the state would amount to $40.

Washington's proposed EV fee, however, would amount to $100 per year.

"Electric vehicles put just as much wear and tear on our roads as gas vehicles,” explained the bill's sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen. "This simply ensures that they contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads." 

"So the question is how do you account for those trends and begin to capture revenue that reflects the actual usage of the road?" said Republican state senator Dan Swecker. "Our state doesn't change very fast. But we thought the $100 fee was a place to start, so let's start there." 

Not surprisingly, EV owners aren't exactly thrilled with this proposed legislation. "The Legislature saw electric vehicles are coming and thought, why not just put a fee on them," quipped Dean West, a Nissan Leaf driver.

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By MikieTImT on 4/25/2011 7:16:17 PM , Rating: 3
The tax should be one that corresponds with the usage of the product. We have to give our odometer reading every year in my state for the registration renewal, so just use that mileage along with vehicle curb weight to figure out how much wear the vehicle causes the roads. Commercial vehicles already have to be weighed at weigh stations, so their weights would get updated regularly. It would have the side benefit of encouraging the adoption of lighter and thus more efficient vehicles.

By bodar on 4/25/2011 7:42:20 PM , Rating: 2
I agree that it should correspond with usage of the roads, but what if you do a lot of out-of-state driving? Odometer readings will be unfairly padded. And what about out-of-state cars that use the roads? No revenue would be gained from them.

At least with a gas tax, if you buy gas in the state, it's obvious that you've done some driving in it. No system is perfect without using GPS tracking or something to measure how much each car drives within the state. Do we really need to go that far? Even if you had that, you'd still only be charging state residents.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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