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With electric-vehicle owners eligible for sizable tax breaks, and ineligible for federal fuel taxes, it often feels like they’re not pulling their weight when it comes to maintaining this great nation’s transportation infrastructure. However, feelings are sometimes wrong — when it feels like an Arby’s night, for example.

There are actually 26 states that presently impose fees upon EV owners and, according to Consumer Reports, 11 charge more than the amount drivers of similar, gas-powered cars pay in gas taxes, with 3 charging more than twice the average amount. Another dozen states are considering adding fees, with CR’s own research stipulating that 10 would require electrics to pay more than they would if they were powered by gasoline. 

Done evenhandedly, that sounds relatively fair to us. But the consumer advocacy outlet suggested this could discourage future growth of the technology. “People should be allowed to choose a vehicle that’s safe, reliable, and better for the environment without being punished,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, manager of cars and energy policy at Consumer Reports, said in a statement.

She claimed that taxing EVs wouldn’t improve state road spending shortfalls (because they aren’t purchased in great numbers) and would be unfair to the average family trying to save money on gas by buying an EV.

We’re not going to get heavy into the logistics, but the environmental impact of electric cars relies heavily on what you buy, how long you keep the vehicle, where you charge it, how much driving you do, and what happens to the car once it’s no longer useful. Anyone who tells you differently, is trying to sell you something — probably an EV. But that doesn’t mean those vehicles can’t be an ecological blessing. A smart shopper, who also lives in a region that sources a lot of renewable energy, can probably brag about their carbon footprint without being a gigantic hypocrite. They would not be much fun at parties, though.

From Consumer Reports:

For the analysis, CR compared existing and proposed EV fees with how much in gasoline sales tax the average driver pays over a year in each of the states. In most states that have them, EV fees are paid annually by the vehicle owners.

In Missouri, there’s a proposal to increase the existing EV fee to three times what the owner of a gas-powered car would pay next year in the state, and the fee would increase to four times the amount by 2025, according to CR’s analysis.

Missouri’s proposed EV fee was set with the help of state senate research staff and experts at the state transportation department, says Senator Gary Romine, who was the main sponsor of the legislation. Most transportation funding in Missouri comes from a consumption tax on gasoline, says Romine, who serves as vice chairman of the state Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee.

Missouri’s plan is probably the most aggressive example. In fact, several states have recently tapped down the fees after receiving blowback from citizens and various advocacy groups. But what happens as EVs become more popular? Surely, it’s not fair to have gas-burners shouldering the burden of keeping America’s roads pothole free less riddled with giant craters by themselves.

Vermont seems to have an answer. After proposing a plan that would have mandated annual fees on electric cars, the state’s Agency of Transportation became worried that the move would discourage early adopters — something it says would conflict with the state’s longterm climate and energy goals. The revised plan is to wait until electrics make up 15 percent of the state’s total vehicle registrations before taxing them. Vermont has also been finalizing a plan to further increase EV incentives for households that make less than $92,000 annually. It’s supposed to launch next year.

The CR study cites numerous examples that showcase the different approaches states are taking to tax (or not tax) electric cars. It also offers counterpoints to a lot of rebuttals you probably have at the ready as to why EVs should be taxed — the perception that they’re primarily bought by wealthy costal folks, for instance.

It’s worth a read if you have any interest in the subject. But it does fall heavy on the side of not taxing electrics. Regardless, we’re curious to hear your takes.

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