David Roberts · Friday, February 24, 2017, 10:07 am
Dumb policy in response to a broken gas tax.
Electric vehicles serve the public good — they reduce local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. But these social benefits are not reflected in the price of the vehicles, which remain, at this stage of market development, somewhat more expensive than comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
That is why EVs are the target of a range of supportive public policies, from a $7,500 federal tax credit to various state-level incentives, including tax credits and exemptions, access to special highway lanes, and rebates on charging equipment.
The oil industry — which now faces a serious threat if more optimistic EV forecasts play out — does not like these policies one bit. To complement their ongoing war on solar power, the Koch brothers are organizing a $10 million a year campaign against pro-EV public policies under the banner of “Fueling US Forward.” It is, in creepy Koch fashion, courting minorities by seeking to convince them that EV policies hurt their communities. ALEC, the state-level right-wing group that writes “model policies” for state Republicans, recently passed a "Resolution Regarding Subsidies for Electric Vehicles.” (Spoiler: They’re against.)
These efforts have met with limited success. There is one area, though, where state policy is directly chipping away at support for EVs: fees to raise transportation money.
EV fees are spreading
At the end of 2015, the Department of Energy identified nine states that levy extra yearly fees on purchasers of EVs. Since then, Michigan added a fee, so the number now stands at 10.
As the Sierra Club reports, “since the start of 2017, six states (Indiana, South Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Montana) have introduced legislation that would require EV owners to pay a fee of up to $180 a year.”
Here’s the table, from Car & Driver:
Happily for EV advocates, Car & Driver also reports that “at least 10 states have tabled such bills, including Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah this year. Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Arizona, Texas, and Kansas (which wanted EV owners to install separate charging meters in their homes) all failed to enact fees over the past couple years.”
So this battle is ongoing.
From a policy perspective, state EV fees are somewhat perverse. In effect, they override the federal decision to support EVs. The federal tax credit now gets partially diverted into state coffers.