By on May 16, 2019

Image: Nissan

As you read earlier this week, the state of Illinois wants motorists to pay up. Big time. A new proposal that stands a good chance of passing into law not only more than doubles the state’s gas tax, it would also hit electric vehicle drivers with an annual $1,000 fee — a bill for adding wear and tear to the state’s roads and bridges while depriving state coffers of sweet, sweet gas tax revenue.

Some EV drivers are not what you’d call “happy” about it. But are you?

Twenty-four U.S. states already levy some sort of fee on EV drivers, designed to make up, in a small way, for what their drivers aren’t spending at the pumps. Ohio, West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia ding EV owners $200 a year; other states see fees ranging from $50 (Colorado, Wyoming) to $100 (California) and $150 (Washington). The Northeast seems completely exempt from such fees, and it is there you’ll still find some rebates offered by state governments or participating utilities.

Elsewhere, perks exist for EV buyers — from the federal tax credit that’s already halved for Tesla and General Motors vehicles, to pretty much blanket HOV lane access, assuming such a lane exists anywhere near your home.

As electric vehicle sales struggle to rise above the current 1 percent (or so) take rate, incentives are drying up at a growing pace. One can imagine how ownership costs might change in five years’ time, when greater U.S. EV uptake (born of a Euro-centric product surge) leads more states to start looking at Illinois’ tactics, assuming the bill passes.

Upstream emissions aside, EVs are clean in operation. You’ll never get a whiff of one, and their missing tailpipes are cause for celebration if climate change ranks high on your list of concerns. Now, put yourself in the governor’s mansion. Is this debatable virtuousness enough reason for EV owners to side-step paying into the road budget, or would you make like Illinois and try to recoup every last lost penny?

Sound off in the comments.

[Image: Nissan]

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77 Comments on “QOTD: Hit ’em Where They Drive?...”


  • avatar
    retrocrank

    1. EVs don’t spew CO2 and other nasties but that electricity has to come from somewhere…
    2. Beyond the tailpipe, EV cars/trucks still contribute to congestion, roadway damage, and other extended costs (batteries, tires, lawyers, etc…)
    3. It’s a great idea….ONLY if IL turns that money around and builds/rebuilds a light rail network as existed a century ago – powered by electricity, running on frequent headways, and serving every population center with more than about 5000 people. And subsidized to the point that costs to go from Point A to Point B are not greater than the current extended costs of driving that distance.
    4. In addressing the extended but unpaid societal/infrastructure/environmental costs incurred by the current cheap fuel/personal mobility situation, this is surely a better idea than the draconian ideas that places like CA and norther Yurpine nations propose that would separate the enthusiast from his/her interesting and fun machinery.

    • 0 avatar
      Ko1

      “ONLY if IL turns that money around and builds/rebuilds a light rail network”

      There is a real life Springfield in Illinois. All I can think of is “monorail.”

      • 0 avatar
        retrocrank

        Ohio, southern MI, Indiana and a big part of Illinois and Iowa were once laced by Interurban rail networks. Sturdier and much faster than streetcars but lighter and smaller than “steam” lines (requiring much less in the way of ROW prep), they were relatively inexpensive ways for power companies to sell off excess capacity,
        and the benefit was that Ma and Pa Kettle could get to the Big City from their hamlet quickly and not terribly expensive. All this went away in the 20s and 30s due to various contributors including paving roads, cheap and available cars, and probably auto/oil/rubber industry pressure/connivings.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          Speaking of Ohio, I think they’re charging Hybrid owners $25 and EV owners $75 or maybe $100. $75 for an EV is fair. $1,000 isn’t!

          • 0 avatar
            rudiger

            From what I understand, the just-signed new gas tax law in Ohio charges EVs with a plug (including PHEVs like Volt, Pacifica, Clarity, etc.) an extra $200 annual fee, while non-plug hybrids (Prius, Ioniq, etc.) now have to pay an extra $100.

            The latter is the one that’s truly puzzling; Ohio is effectively saying if you own a vehicle that gets the best fuel mileage, because it does it with an onboard battery, you get to pay an extra $100 per year for that privilege.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Not a big fan of diverting gas/e tax dollars to pay for something else. Make the argument that interurbans are cost effective today on passengers/ton-mile vs energy/environmental cost and I’ll listen.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Not a big fan of diverting gas/e tax dollars to pay for something else. Make the argument that interurbans are cost effective today on passengers/ton-mile vs energy/environmental cost and I’ll listen.

      • 0 avatar
        packardhell1

        I live in Springfield, Illinois. I don’t mind being taxed if I see something from it – smooth roads, great schools, awesome infrastructure. We don’t see any of that in urban areas. Between our exorbitant property tax rates, criminal governors, high sales tax, high gas tax, and an upcoming tax on plastic bags at the grocery store, I would guess EV owners don’t trust their local gov’t to spend that $1,000 wisely. The track record sucks, so what is to say that money will go toward something meaningful?

    • 0 avatar
      ACCvsBig10

      Dont Ev’s tend to weigh more with their battery packs than regular cars?

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        Curb weight of a Nissan Leaf is about 3500 lbs. A Model 3’s curb weight is around 3800 lbs, so an EV is typically about 500 lbs heavier than an equivalent gasoline powered sedan. That’s a fairly insignificant amount of additional road wear.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          For comparison, the heaviest Porsche 911 is 3,641 lbs. EV batteries are getting lighter though. Wh/kg is improving rapidly. Tesla closed the deal on Maxwell, so that might get them to 500 Wh/kg (for the cells) in the not too distant future. That level of energy density might actually make lower end EVs lighter than ICE cars.

      • 0 avatar
        forward_look

        And they weigh less than 18 wheel trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          Roads eventually fail from environmental weathering damage even without any traffic. The traffic weight component of road damage usually goes as the 3rd or 4th power of axle weight (and number of axles). That 30-40 ton 18 wheeler does a whole lot more damage than a 1 1/2 to 3 ton light vehicle.
          So there is an access fee to use the highway and a damage fee to fix damage done by your vehicle. Yes, we all have to pay something, whether the vehicle is powered by gas, electrons or unicorn poop.

  • avatar
    snapg

    $1000 seems high. Using some basic math here – tax would go from $.19 to $.38 and then add in the sales tax of $.0625. Say gas is $3 a gallon so sales tax is roughly $.019 – so a total of $.57 per gallon. $1000 divided by $.57 is about 1754 gallons of gas. If you have 20 gallon tank that’s about 88 fillups per year. Or every 4 days. $1000 seems high.

    I know I am probably not the norm but I fill up my F150 twice a month, electric train takes me to work 4 days a week and I work from home on the other day.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    retrocrank – “but that electricity has to come from somewhere…”. Not a problem – it comes from that wall plate thingy much like the meat that is purchased from the supermarket that is made by the employees in the backroom of the store.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    The surcharges need to be levied to cover the road/use taxes not paid at the pump. This is simple and easy to accommodate with registration fees and the ‘outrage’ will subside as it always does once another topic arises for people to be angry about. A $50 enhanced registration fee in CO does not negate the ownership experience in any measurable way, I will concede the $1000 fee proposed in IL is silly no need for it to be that high as it appears the fee is more than most would pay at the pump one the course of a year. I guess you have the outlier who drives his H2 25k a year and is now shopping for his next 11 mpg rig; Tundra maybe?

    As for the cost of creating electricity, here in the west the cost is largely an upfront fee. Solar is cheap to produce or capture once you have the correct equipment installed, which is where the expense comes from.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    As long as the current system of fuel taxes exist for the funding of road upkeep and maintenance, there should be some mechanism for assessing this tax on non-traditional fuel vehicles. There were lots of ideas bantered back and forth earlier this week in the article centered around the punitive $1000 tax proposal in IL.

    Here in PA, we have annual vehicle safety inspections. Among other things they record the mileage at time of inspection. We also report mileage at the time of renewal of our registration (license plates). It would be simple enough to come up with some formula to convert miles driven to approximate fuel tax paid, and require payment within a certain window before revoking a registration. That may require a different mechanism in states that do not conduct inspection/registration. Something similar would probably also need to be created on the federal level for the federal fuel tax.

    The next challenge is making sure that the fuel taxes paid actually go to their intended purpose, PA revealed a large portion of the fuel tax hike was funneled off and went to the state police and not road improvements. Like anything else, that is the biggest challenge.

    • 0 avatar

      ^
      I would agree with DedBull. Find a reliable and accurate figure for the average miles driven by motorists in the state. Determine how much tax would be paid at the pump by said average driver. Apply that figure to the yearly cost of vehicle registration for all EVs regardless of type. When a motorist ditches their EV for an ICE, remove the “road use” tariff from the registration. All motorists would pay a equitable amount. Initial resistance would only come from EV owners most likely. Everyone should pay for their use of the roadways of the state in which they live. Unless, of course, you don’t care about safety, emergency vehicles getting to the accident/fire/whatever and your own as you travel your states roadways.

      The other point that may be harder to “enforce” would be the absolute that this “road” tax would go directly for infrastructure needs of the highways/roads of the state – not rail, not schools, not “your cause here”.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I’m not so sure that EV owners would resist (kudos for the reference to Ohm’s Law), I think most would agree that they are now getting a free ride. As others have said, it just needs to be equivalent to that charged the road use of fueled vehicles.

        Looking at my annual mileage (10K at 22mpg) and using a figure of 45 cents per gallon of tax, I pay about $200 per year in tax. If I switch to an EV, I wouldn’t have any issue paying that as an annual fee.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        They should pay taxes in the state in which they live, but what about the state they drive through every day? Few people who drive into DC every day from Maryland and Virginia are buying gas there, but they’re still adding far more wear and tear than DC residents.

        I guess the only way for this to work would be to self-report what jurisdictions you were driving in. We already do something similar for state income taxes. If I was using out-of-state roads every day, I’d at least want them to be maintained, and I’d want my tax money to go towards fixing them.

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      Miles driven divided by the vehicle’s EPA MPGe rating times the fuel tax per gallon rate seems fair.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    $1000 a year is sort of nuts, considering that older electrics may only get light duty. At that rate they will be pushing the old Nissan Leafs to an early grave—increasing their carbon footprint, and defecating on the whole point of the exercise.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Heck yes, do charge EVs for fixing the roads, and for the battery disposal.

    The same thought for any means that use the roads, but don’t pay for the roads.

    30% of electricity is from burning coal, X% is from petroleum, so there are emissions.

  • avatar
    Safeblonde

    Oh that’s cute, the commenters here think Illinois is interested in maintaining roads and offsetting EV road “use”. In Illinois it is all about taxation “revenue”. Taxation, taxation. We Illinois residents know the truth about Illinois.

  • avatar
    Jon

    If the idea behind the tax is purely to regulate environmental impact, then EV owners should pay a tax (proportional to the amount of emissions produced in manufacturing / lifetime emissions) at the time of sale since most of the vehicles emissions are produced during manufacturing of the battery.

    They should also pay a tax (proportional to the amount of emissions produced in recycling / lifetime emissions) to recycle/dispose of the battery since this process is also emissions intensive.

    If the idea behind the tax is to fund roadway repair and construction, then they can pay an additional tax every year that the vehicle is registered or the registration renewed.

  • avatar
    heycarp

    OTR trucks contribute at least 90% of road damage here in Ohio –
    And my trucker friends assure me that they haul heavy + they overpressure tires – all the time —- cars , any/all are a small input – Big rigs are the bane – but their orgs. sure buy lots O politicians –

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      There is a simple solution to this; don’t buy stuff that OTR trucks carry. Otherwise, enjoy your fuel, food, furniture, materials, electronics, etc.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        There’s all this talk about electric rail lines for people across this country. I have said it many times. Why not instead focus on improving cargo rail operations? The more we ship by rail, the less wear and congestion on our roads, and the environmental impact would actually be huge.

        • 0 avatar
          DedBull

          Working near one of the main rail routes on the NE, NS’s old Nickel Plate Road, I would say there is more truck to train to truck traffic than you first expect. It works well to send stuff from the coasts to the interior (NYC-CHI and vise versa), but it doesn’t make much sense regionally (say PIT-PHI). I think you’d find that logistically most of the truck routes exist because it’s quicker and easier to just haul directly than transload between cities. In this world of just in time, I don’t see how even high speed rail could compete logistically vs a direct a-b truck route.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Perhaps true, heycarp, but there are some fairly significant fees that trucking companies pay annually in addition to the fairly simple fuel taxation that should be used for highway maintenance.

  • avatar
    TimK

    They’d love it if the IL highway patrol could simply stop people at random and rob them at gunpoint, but darn it, we’re not quite there — yet. Next best things are property tax hikes (for the children natch) and targeted taxes like this EV ploy. The disaffected are few in number at the polls, while the beneficiaries are many and will keep the perpetrators in office. It’s a win-win-win if I ever saw one!

  • avatar

    I’d probably suggest making other programs more efficient, as opposed to adding a tax on a motorist who’s making the decision to go more green.

    Surely the great state of Illinois is wasting money here and there, and could stop doing that.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    As several have noted, the EV fees in Illinois are only about revenue collection to pay for pension obligations, not better roads or cleaner air. And why does Illinois (and many other big states) have pension funding problems? Because corrupt Democrat politicians beholden to big labor unions for campaign contributions and votes, promise very generous benefits that eventually require such high taxes that citizens start moving away. In other words, politicians are good at promising benefits, but poor at delivering them and/or paying for them. Yet all the Democrat 2020 candidates are running on platforms that promise free medical, free college, and free solar panels, which will be paid for by taxing those rich bastards who make too much money. They have already proven they can’t manage pensions (and social security is also going broke), why would anyone vote to have them take charge of even more of the economy?

    • 0 avatar
      Robotdawn

      I think the tax is bad because most taxes and all tax increases are bad. They can find the money, or they can cut the costs, they just choose not to.

      But you are kidding yourself if you think this is just one party being corrupt. Both major parties are corrupt to the core. I will grant you that at least one party tends to keep its hand out my pocket, and the other doesn’t even pretend its not going to.

  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    This will go straight to the general fund to pay for fat pensions to IL public employees. So retirees can have a house in Scottsdale, a 5th wheel, a new Powerstroke, ski boat, 2x per year trip to Mexico, etc……. all fo being overpaid to write tax code for the previous employees largess.

    …..and the idiots will keep voting them in. Some residents will leave fed up but will continue to vote as before turning red states blue and IL will repopulate itself with people from 3rd world dictatorships who have been programmed to think this is standard operating procedure.

    ….argh.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Illinois Republicans have been even worse than the Democrats.

      Rauner didn’t realize that cutting your way to awesomeness only worked during the 1990s because we (as a society) were in the process of replacing file clerks with databases. But that process was done decades ago, and he didn’t articulate any similarly fundamental efficiencies that he had in mind. He was just going to cut the budget and make everyone else figure it out. But that tactic ran it’s course long ago, both in the State government and in our work culture at large.

      I know this because I’m an IT guy who installed databases which replaced file clerks in the 1990s, leading to huge increases in efficiency. Rauner didn’t know this because he gave orders he didn’t understand — but which worked, until they didn’t.

      Well there’s that, and the fact that ideoloigical Republicans think the Laffer Curve is the most important economic model in existence. There are times and places when the Laffer Curve was important, but American tax rates are nowhere close to to 70%-ish inflection point shown by the emperical data. Eye roll.

      So, yeah, Democrats are far from perfect, but they remember that government is supposed to serve the people and PROVIDE VALUE for their tax dollars — and they are the alternative we have.

      If we want to fix this, we need to change how we vote. Winner take all systems favor one or two parties. I’d prefer I’d our legislature accurately reflected all of the factions in our society, rather than sorting us into two nonsense parties.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    So you are saying give the person going green a tax break on road tax as well?

  • avatar
    285exp

    $1000 a year is ridiculous, but $200-250 would be about in line with what a typical ICE vehicle of equivalent curb weight would pay in state tax, still need to work out how to make up the Federal and local taxes.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      That would be reasonable. We already pay about $100/year, and so 2x-3x would be easier to absorb than 10x.

      Of course, as a fully recovered former conservative, I now look for VALUE from my tax dollars. Convince me that paying more provides VALUE and I’ll be OK with it.

  • avatar
    Dartdude

    Lets face it, there is no way to come up with fair system to pay for all the things politicans want to give away. The way I see it when it comes to state and county budgets let the taxpayers decide where THEIR money goes. So that programs that can’t generate enough income get cut or closed.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Funny how EV drivers have no problem with punitive taxes as long as they apply to someone else. Take away this free lunch, however, and the howls of outrage begin.

    This sense of moral superiority, paired with the willingness to spend other people’s money, probably explains why so many EVs are covered in leftist bumper stickers.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      EVs only turn Left.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @stingray65: Just because left-leaning politicians favor EVs doesn’t mean everyone that buys one is on the left. Most of my income comes from fracked oil and natural gas in the Permian Basin. I’m not a person that the Sierra Club likes. However, I like EVs for the power, smoothness, and quiet. I’m also using some of my oil money to invest in battery technology. While it’s a green thing, it’s also technology needed by the military in robotics and things like AIP submarines/drones. You need to look beyond the politics.

        • 0 avatar
          stingray65

          MCS – I have nothing against people who take advantage of EV subsidies, or people who enjoy the often nice driving characteristics of EVs, but without Leftist politicians there would be no EV subsidies, and without EV subsidies there would be no EVs.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            I disagree. Without the subsidies, EVs would still be on the market. High-end EVs for people that want them don’t depend on subsidies.

            Remember, those subsidies came from a time where it wasn’t just pollution, there was an issue with our dependence on foreign oil. That’s changed of course, but it was a non-leftist issue that EVs addressed.

            In California, there were real issues with pollution. I remember being in Glendale when the smog would roll in. Right or left, that wasn’t a good thing to have. You can’t blame people for wanting clear air. It’s not a left or right thing.

            Currently, there is a defense need for better batteries and motors. unmanned equipment, especially the AIP submarine drones the Navy wants depend on what is essentially EV technology. EV maker competition will improve that technology. I also read that lighter batteries were needed in order to lighten the weight of the equipment carried by foot soldiers. EVs or not, the technology is needed and needs to be funded. Creating consumer demand increases the competition, makes a better product, and in the end makes it cheaper.

            So, there are non-left reasons for both the subsidies and the technology – especially the defense aspect. The defense aspect is huge.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I haven’t seen an EV covered with bumper stickers yet and I see at least a half dozen a day. Priuses – well that’s a different story. Subaru’s seem to have plenty as well.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I see some here understand how Illinois “works”.

    This has nothing to do with roads or anything. This money probably won’t see a dime go towards that. It is just another “solution” for a budget and pension problem in Illinois. The basic way it works in IL or Chicago is that if there isn’t enough money, just tax something.

    Income tax hike that essentially went 100% to bloated pensions (want a fun story read up on payouts and who is eligible for the payouts). Sell off the parking meters and blow the over a billion dollars in a couple years while citizens have to eat the sandwich for 75 years. Let’s see…. oh massive property tax hikes. Entertainment tax on your Netflix. Super high gas tax and then sales tax on top of that (which this article also mentions will go up). Don’t forget to raise tolls on the toll roads. Oh sell off the Chicago Skyway (see parking meter debacle). Awhile back someone was floating essentially an exit tax. You’d pay a tax to sell your home and get a refund if your next home was in Illinois. Sell and leave IL and they keep the money.

    So yeah. This is just another tax that will funnel to a few people.

    I love Chicago for the most part. Enjoyed my years living there. But it has become unlivable. Everyone is just a walking wallet to those in power. Oh add in lots of corruption so you know your money doesn’t go anywhere good/useful. There is a reason Illinois, I believe, has the highest percentage outflow of residents of any state. Perhaps only West Virginia is worse.

    Sorry EV drivers. You’re the next Pocket to pick.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      EV owners are the richest group of drivers – they are also among the most Leftist group of car owners. It therefore seems like they should feel it is their patriotic duty to help pay for all the wonderful government “services” they receive.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Don’t be so quick to label drivers by what they drive. I had no idea that Corvette owners were so hard right. Yet here I am in the “club” and a leftie and damn proud of it. So my C7 has a white “RESIST” sticker on the bumper. Left side of course. The white contrasts nicely with the carbon flash black…

        Most EV/hybrid drivers around here choose these cars for a lot of reasons and the enviroment is only part of it. Frankly there are some EV owners that feel like you do – ME, myself, and I and screw everybody else. But they like the access to the HOV lane…

        • 0 avatar
          AdamOfAus

          Yeah wouldn’t be too proud about that one buddy.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          It goes both ways.

          Most of the people in my town who own pickup trucks (for practical reasons) plaster them with left-leaning political bumper stickers.

          Pickup truck owners really don’t want to be mistaken for a MAGA-type (they don’t want to be confused with a person whose manners and intellect are are so coarse that think Trump’s public words and actions are somehow aceeptable). Republicans are going to spend decades trying to overcome this self-inflicted credibility and morality gap.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            They put those stickers on their trucks so some Soros-puppet commies don’t vandalize the pickups or physically attack them for having jobs.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I was in the parking lot of the local Cathedral a few years back and there was an old “square body” GMC parked with a sticker that said “This Truck Protected by Smith and Wesson” next to it was a beater S-10 from the final generation of those trucks with a “Coexist” bumper sticker.

            A nice study in contrasts.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            I meant to say “pickup truck owners in my town”, which is an island of the highly educated in the middle of rural America.

            It’s a college town in Illinois with a lot of tech jobs and low cost of living. The liberals here mostly have far better jobs than our rural neighbors. Knowledge work pays well and is globally portable. Some of us choose to live here, and love it;

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            I used to live in Charlottesville, Virginia. It has transitioned from college town to true left-wing dystopia, where you can prank someone by covering their RESIST sticker with a pro-life one and letting their fellow bottom-feeders key their paint job. Call it social justice with a side of the poetic.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            When I travel to rural parts of Illinois, or post-industrial cities near me, it’s clear we have it way better in our little liberal multicultural paradise.

            All are welcome here, but it can be a culture shock and an education for some people (including rural Americans).

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Obama’s unlimited student loans were all about redistributing wealth from people who produce things to people who proliferate marxist ideology. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Mom used to ask me if I ever thought about moving “back home” (I grew up about 2/3 of the way between Chicago and Rockford just off I-90) and my answer was always that my employer would have to double my salary or the state government had to be fixed first.

    There’s a reason that Illinois and New Jersey are generally considered the most corrupt, it should come as no surprise that both are states that either have or are seriously contemplating an exit tax.

    The $1000 EV tax is a ridiculous but it’s certainly intended as a luxury tax. The Model S owners will grind their teeth and pay it, which is what the state expects. I feel bad for the middle-class folks who stretched for a Prius with the hope that the TCO will be worth it over its lifetime and may have to weigh the tax vs. eating the depreciation to trade it off.

    I wonder how they define the Volt.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    If the extra amount charged to the EV driver equals what the driver of a ***comparable*** ICE car would pay, then fine. So if you drive a Leaf, they should charge you what a Corolla driver would pay in gas tax over a year. Which, I feel pretty confident, is a hell of a lot less than $1000. That seems obviously excessive and punitive.


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