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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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Bad Precedent
By LyCannon on 4/25/2011 8:49:05 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree that everyone who use the roads should pay a part in their maintenance, by adding an arbitrary tax to EV owners is probably not the best way to go about it. Once this idea has been established, where would it stop? Will it be $200 in three years, $500? What about other states?

The oil companies have a large interest in killing EV's. Once this fee has become accepted, they will lobby like crazy to get it raised further to a point where EV's are no longer attractive.

Also a fixed tax amount is unfair.

What if I have an EV and only drive 10 miles per day to work and back. Why should I have to pay the full amount when someone who drives 100 miles a day pays the same.

I agree that the most fair way would involve some GPS system or tolls, but that isn't realistic. It's an evasion of privacy for GPS and tolls are expensive to set up. Not good with a state that already has a deficit.

I think the best compromise is for every EV model, find an equivalent weight car, get it's average MPG rate, and based on the odometer reading, charge the right tax for the amount you've driven when you renew your car registration. Even better would be to take the best and worst performing car and average them.

Simple and relatively fair.

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