GM to Washington State: Don’t Pass Electric Vehicle Taxation Law

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Photo from flickr user

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For the past year, the state of Washington has been examining the possibility of putting a $100 annual surcharge on electric vehicle registrations. 

A contentious issue, the house bill proposed to help the state recoup tax dollars lost as more people switch from gas-guzzling cars to plug-in and hybrid cars. 

Many of Washington State’s electric car owners understand and support the tax, but the proposed legislation has found a new enemy in the form of General Motors. 

In a public letter last week to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire,  GM Director of Government Affairs Hal Lenox pleaded with the state to not bring bill into law. 

Acknowledging that Washington State has a positive record when it comes to alternative fuel vehicle support, Lenox pointed out that the experiences of early-adopting electric car drivers are essential to the spread of the technology. 

“Some studies also note that market demand can be greatly influenced by the experiences and opinions of the early adopters of this technology,” he explained. 

If those experiences were bad however, Lenox warned electric car adoption would slow. “Conversely, a fee which singles out electric vehicles will be a disincentive to the growth of the electric vehicle market in Washington State.”

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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Turning to the financial interests of the state, Lenox’s letter appeals to Governor Gregoire’s fiscal side. 

“There are currently so few electric vehicles on Washington’s roads today that their impact in replacing fuel tax revenues will, for now, be negligible,” he wrote, pointing out that if passed, the legislation would fail to collect much revenue given current electric car ownership rates in the state. 

Moreover he argued, GM believed there was a better way to ensure that any road user pays a proportional amount towards road upkeep, regardless of their car’s fuel. 

“We believe that all beneficiaries of the [road] system should pay their fair share of the costs for preserving, operating and improving the statewide transportation system,” he concluded, offering GM’s support to help develop a fairer road taxation system if Washington drops the legislation. 

Obviously, GM’s intervention isn’t just out of the goodness of its corporate heart. 

Thanks to cities like Seattle, Washington is known for its support of plug-in vehicles and hybrids. 

As a consequence, GM stands to lose potential 2012 Chevrolet Volt customers if the $100 electric car tax bill is passed into law. 

The question is, will GM’s intervention work? Is this a big issue, or is GM just scared of losing more sales at a time when Volt production has been temporarily halted to cope with low demand? 

Let us know your thoughts in the Comments below. 


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Comments (13)
  1. You need incentives to get people to switch from gas to electic. The U.S. needs to get off its dependence on foreign oil. Let those who choose to continue with gas vehicles pay the tax, and let those who switch to electric vehicles have a tax holiday until the the percentage of electric vehicles on the road approaches 50%. Once we have more electic vehicles on the road then we can talk about adding a tax to them.

  2. totally agree, owners of petroleum fuel vehicles need to see the 'light' to change the future of automobile travel in the USA

  3. I agree with Jim as well. It's too soon to start adding additional taxes to EV's or plug in cars. Also I would be willing to bet that my LEAF puts less than the average amount of wear and tear on the roadways. The reduced pollution from EV's actually helps these states and communities in the long run.

  4. Said it before, will say it again. Tax by miles traveled and vehicle weight regardless of technology.

  5. I'm with GM on this one. EV is critical to ending our dependence on foreign oil.

  6. I agree with Jim-Washington state-you already tax everyone, including corporations to the hilt. How about giving early adopters a break here?

    Although, ya know, if I was gonna spring for a Chevy Volt (ahem...cough cough***!!!) $42,995...$100 more dollars for Washington state would not make or break the deal. Just sayin'.

    Remember, in BO's rebate deal, Volt purchasers get back $7,500 at Federal tax time, for that tax year.

  7. Although the flat $100 fee only makes our inequitable road tax system worse, I would remind everyone, GM included, that the Washington sales tax is WAIVED for EV purchases. That is a $4,085 tax break for early adopters of the Volt. Please get all the facts before you start whining about taxes.

  8. Wow, your sales tax is roughly 10%. I thought 6% in Florida was bad enough!

  9. @Jeremy, Sorry, but YOU'VE the one who has the facts wrong. The Volt does NOT qualify for a WA sales tax exemption. Full EV's, such as the Nissan Leaf do, but not so lucky with the Volt.

  10. I agree with Jim. Until Ev's approach 10% let alone the 50% as he mentions of the cars on the road they will be relatively a non issue on roadway degragation. Big 18 wheelers are by far the hardest on the road surface and most Ev's will be smaller to midsize vehicles. Lets not crush the desire to own an EV by taxing the early adoptors of this new technology. They will pave the way for a more widespread introduction of practical EV's that will be more affordable to the average car buyer.(Ie $15,000 to $25,000 price range) Once Ev's become more common place then introduce a tax based upon miles driven each year to compensate for roadway maintanence. I feel that taxing a small fringe of EV owners is spiteful and only serves to protect big oil.

  11. Just for your information, hybrids are not included in this new fee. NEV's are excluded. So the Volt is not affected by this, even though you could hypothetically drive a Volt around for a long time using not a single drop of fuel.

    The bill is passed and is waiting for the governor's signature.

    Why GM is concerned may have more to do with their future plans for EV's in their lineup.

  12. As a resident of WA State, i want to pay my fair share of road maintenance taxes but a flat fee is not the way to do it. My Prius despite driving only 1400 more miles (Leaf on the road jan 18th, so bit of a head start) than the Leaf in 2011, paid about $112 in taxes. granted a car getting less than 50 mpg would pay more but i also know people who have a Leaf and only average 5,000 miles a year and they will pay a much higher rate than i would since i drove 12,800 miles last year.

    many years ago, i paid a use tax on vehicles based on weight/mileage driven. i simply reported my odometer reading when registering and the mileage driven last year was determined and cost computed. this made it a fair tax based on actual usage. i think this

  13. the one thing i do applaud is WA State excluding hybrids and NEV's as far as paying the $100? sure i am ok with it as long as it is fair but a flat $100 is less than my fair share. besides, i am still enjoying the $3200 sales tax waiver for buying EV.

    but it confuses me that WA State provides sales tax waiver for ANYTHING EV (i bought batteries for my Zenn in 2009 tax free as well) until 2020 then adds this?

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