The Illinois legislature has backed away from a proposed $1,000 registration fee targeted at electric cars that was met with scorn and opposition from automakers and electric-car advocates.
Instead, the legislature imposed a new registration fee of $248 on electric cars as part of a sweeping measure to build income for the state's highway funds.
The new fees may still come as a shock to electric-car owners, who previously paid just $17.50 before, while other drivers paid $98. Instead of paying less, electric-car drivers now pay more.
The measure also raises registration fees on gas cars to $148, and more significantly doubles the state's gas tax to 38 cents per gallon. Since gas taxes in most states are at least nominally intended to fund road projects, and electric cars don't buy gas, EVs have become a visible target for many state lawmakers in an effort to make up funding shortfalls in highway maintenance budgets.
Nationally, electric cars, which went on the market in 2011, now make up about 1 percent of new car sales, while many state highway funds have been falling behind for decades. According to a 2018 study by the Federal Highway Administration, 54 percent of the nation's more than 616,000 bridges are in fair or poor condition.
Still, as sales increase, EVs could contribute more to road use while not contributing to highway funds by paying gas taxes. When we surveyed our readers in a Twitter poll last month, 29 percent supported higher registration fees for electric cars to contribute to road maintenance, though more thought per-mile fees would be fairer.
It's unclear whether the $1,000 fee for EVs, which seemed a punitive sum designed to discourage electric-car sales, was ever serious or if it were intended to lessen the burn from the extra $100 fee now levied on EVs. In any case, Illinois now joins North Dakota, Washington state, and others in charging EVs more up front.