Washington State Passes Electric Vehicle Tax
In February, 2012, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a tax on Electric Vehicles aimed at making up for lost gasoline tax revenues. The measure includes Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) and Low Speed Electric Vehicles (LSVs) as well as plug-in electric vehicles from major automakers.
Washington State has one of the highest gas taxes in the nation at 37.5 cents per gallon. Added to the Federal 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax, it makes for a whopping 54.9 cents in taxes that Washingtonians pay per gallon of gasoline.
Since monies collected from gasoline taxes are used to repair and maintain roads and traffic infrastructure, lawmakers felt that the proliferation of electric-powered vehicles could cause a shortfall in the funds used for those purposes. The $100 annual fee is supposed to make EV drivers pay their fair share of these expenses.
The move is controversial for a number of reasons. Firstly, the number of electric vehicles currently on Washington’s roads is so small that the money raised by the new fee will be negligible for the foreseeable future. Secondly, with gasoline-powered vehicles becoming increasingly more efficient, less gasoline tax revenue is being collected anyway, leading some to suggest that a system of charging a tax-per-mile-traveled would be fairer for all vehicle owners. A similar move is already being considered in the Netherlands.
No one seems to dispute that EV owners should pay something toward the upkeep of the roads on which they drive. NEV and LSV owners, however, feel that the tax is too high for them, since most such vehicles are driven far less and are much lighter in weight than gasoline-powered vehicles, thus having a lower impact on the roads they drive.
Some question the timing of the tax. While many governments are offering incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles to help this fledgling industry grow, it seems to some to be counterproductive to then pass a tax that seems to “punish” electric vehicle drivers for their “green” choices.
It appears that the controversy will rage on for some time, as other states and municipalities consider similar measures to deal with decreasing gasoline tax revenues.