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article imageWashington readies nation's first electric vehicle license fees

By Kim I. Hartman     Apr 25, 2011 in Environment
Olympia - Senate lawmakers, in the state of Washington, have approved a bill that seeks to recover lost gas tax revenue by imposing an annual $100 fee on electric cars. The bill, if passed by the House, will require owners to pay the tax when registering their EV.
Electric vehicle (EV) owners who choose to drive vehicles like the Nissan Leaf, recently voted 2011 World Car of the Year, have been able to avoid paying gas taxes used to to maintain the state highway road system.
But if Washington state lawmakers have their way, EV owners will soon pay a special yearly fee, in lieu of a gas tax, to register their zero-emission, battery-powered vehicles.
It's a matter of fairness, said Senate Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, to The Seattle Times. "Electric cars will be driving on the highways right along with all the other cars. One of our biggest issues is preservation and maintenance of our existing highways. We believe they should be paying their fair share," said Haugen, the bill's lead sponsor.
According to Senate Bill 5251 [pdf]: "The legislature recognizes that the motor vehicle fuel tax is the primary source of funding for the state's transportation system. As the state's fleet changes from motor vehicles powered by traditional sources, such as gasoline and diesel, to those powered by electricity, the ability of the state to fund the maintenance and preservation of the transportation system is compromised. In order to mitigate the impacts of the diminishing motor vehicle fuel tax, and to create a system where each driver pays for a fair portion of his or her use of the road, an additional fee is imposed on electric vehicles.
The bill will "apply to vehicles that are designed to have the capability to drive at a speed of more than thirty-five miles per hour." The proposed registration fee is considered "separate and distinct from other vehicle license fees."
Senate Bill 5251:
Establishes a $100 annual fee for electric vehicles that use propulsion units powered solely by electricity that are capable of speeds of more than 35 miles per hour.
Applies the electric vehicle annual renewal fee to registrations that are due on or after March 1, 2012.
Establishes the distribution of the fee to various transportation accounts to be used for highway purposes.
Establishes an expiration date for the $100 fee, if the State of Washington ever imposes a vehicle-miles-traveled fee or tax.
"In Washington state, some electric car drivers and lawmakers are against the fee, saying they prefer paying based on how much they actually drive," reports AOL News.
"The Legislature saw electric vehicles are coming and thought, why not just put a fee on them?" said Dean West, an electric vehicle owner who expects to receive a pre-ordered Leaf — Nissan's new, battery-powered sedan — this summer." West, who is against the registration fee, said he would be in favor of a user fee, reports AOL. "The more you use it, the more you pay."
The proposed $100 fee is half the amount traditional vehicle owners are paying at the pumps, in taxes added to the per gallon price of fuel. "The Washington Department of Transportation estimates that owners of gasoline-powered vehicles pay, on average, $204 per year in gas taxes. The estimate is based on driving 12,000 miles per year with a state gas tax of 37.5 cents per gallon," according to the Seattle Times report.
"Here's what it all boils down to," says AutoBlogGreen. "If Senate Bill 5251 is approved, the governor's office projects that the imposed $100 fee would add approximately $400,000 in 2013 and $1.9 million by 2017 to the state's operating budget. Once again, it seems like this is an argument over money."
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