Last week, after several states proposed new registration fees on electric cars, ostensibly to pay for road maintenance, we wondered what our readers thought would work best.
We have nothing against electric-car drivers paying their fair share for road maintenance, but some state proposals seemed to go beyond mere fairness to actively discouraging people from buying electric cars.
A new bill in the Illinois legislature, for example, would charge $1,000 for EV registrations, versus just $148 for other cars. Even factoring in the gas tax that EV drivers don't pay, it's prohibitively steep.
Other states have proposed charging electric-car drivers by the mile, and some political advocates have called for extra taxes on tires, or electricity.
In light of all the changes, last week we thought we'd ask our Twitter followers—many of whom drive electric cars—how EV drivers could fairly contribute to their state's road maintenance fund.
We decided not to get into the issue of which states may not use the funds to pay for road maintenance, because it's so variable and because it falls outside the argument that states are using to impose these new fees.
Our Twitter poll question last week asked: "How should EV owners pay for road maintenance?"
How should EV owners pay for road maintenance?— Green Car Reports (@GreenCarReports) May 15, 2019
The four choices above were those we included in our poll.
The largest group of respondents agreed that per-mile fees seemed fairest, with 42 percent of our respondents choosing that option.Some commenters noted that many states already require safety inspections which record vehicle mileage, which could be used to track the mileage.
The second-largest group, at 29 percent, favored the approach that most states seem to have taken (those states that try to raise highway funds from EVs at all, anyway), registration fees. Presumably our readers weren't asking for fees as high as $1,000, though.
18 percent thought the fairest thing might be for EV drivers to pay for highway maintenance the same way other drivers do: With a tax on the energy they use. This approach is complicated by the fact that by far the most charging is done at home, so it would require some separate home electric meter for every electric car, which could become expensive and complicated.
Another 11 percent favored the creative approach to charging by the mile, a tax on tires. One commenter, however, noted that he would have favored that approach, except that it might discourage drivers from replacing dangerously worn old tires.
As always, remember that our polls are unscientific because of low sample size, and because our respondents are self-selected. Still, if these anecdotal results are anything to go by, perhaps more states should look into tracking mileage during vehicle inspections.