With electric vehicles come new policy issues
As the number of EVs grows, tax and transportation policy must grow with it
I want to comment on the “Future of the Gas Tax? Running on Empty” article. The number of dedicated electric vehicles (EVs) is increasing as the article the article indicates, and Connecticut is collecting no road use tax, which needs to be addressed soon. The “Governor’s Council on Climate Change” looked at 2030 and out to 2050, but did not place much emphasis on near time transportation period and technology needs.
We are in a transition period for transportation technology, and many aspects of future technology have yet to be invented. EVs will have to stand on their own before long like the conventional gasoline powered vehicle as they strive to be a mainstreamed for the general public vehicle market.
In our experience there are two groups buying electric vehicles. The first is the early adopters mostly in the upper income brackets, who in most cases have an interest in climate change. The next emerging group is the group that is considering the practicality and economic feasibility of EVs. This group has done detailed evaluations to include a return on investment analysis, which includes vehicle range and costs, home and work-place charging, electricity costs, cold weather effects on EVs and the lack of affordable 4-wheel drive EVs to mention several of the data points to be considered.
This group is growing with the range increases of various new EV models. EVs have not penetrated into the average car owner market yet, primarily due to many people and families can afford only one vehicle and the need for a car that can travel long distances and carry the average family. Tesla models fulfills these needs, but the average family cannot afford them. The OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) initially did some advertising about EVs, Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids, but now they are probably waiting for new lines of EVs to be produced and follow with a major advertising campaign.
The anticipated EV advertising campaign will be interesting to watch, and see how effective it will be in getting more people to purchase EVs. The growth of EV is increasing, but still remains at 1 to 3 percent of total national auto sales, depending on who you listen to. This leads to the next topic, road use tax or fees.
If EVs expect to be mainstreamed and compete with petroleum fueled vehicles they have to be accountable to all the requirements of the petroleum vehicle community. Unfortunately, the technology is not mature enough to collect EV road use tax at the fueling site. Yes, the commercial electric chargers (Electric Vehicles System Equipment-EVSE) can be set up to collect road use tax/fees based on electricity usage. The issue is how do you collect road use tax/fees from a home and Work-Place EVSEs, since a smart meter or a separate meter would be required and are not available in most homes or business locations.
At this point in the technology spectrum, the tax collectors are without a traditional method to collect the tax or fee on EV road use. Several states have tried different methods from an additional EV charges at the point of sale or annual charges based on an annual estimate average mileage usage of all EVs state.
One possible easy solution is to add an EV tax or fee on the annual Connecticut vehicle registration based on the average miles most vehicles travel, something between 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year, which can be converted to KwHs (kilowatt hours) or GGE (Gas Gallon Equivalents).
In the case of regular petroleum road use tax, another option should be looked at. In the past couple of years fuel cost have dropped below $2.50 a gallon in the case of gasoline and around $3 a gallon in the case of diesel on the average in Connecticut. In the last month or so it has risen 10 to 15 cents a gallon. When the price of fuel gasoline or diesel is at a low level, add a five cent a gallon tax on and reduce it to the normal tax in effect now when it gets higher. Use the $2.50 gasoline amount as the base line for the nickel tax when it is below that amount. Some drivers will complain, but the average driver will not notice.
One of the issues that will face the EV community is power outages, especially during disasters. In many cases fueling stations for regular petroleum fuels have backup generators. Not unlike petroleum fueling stations, the need will arise for fast chargers along evacuations routes in time of hurricanes and other weather related or man-made disasters. They have to be DC fast chargers to take care of the number of vehicles moving through.
The EV Fast Charger will probably be powered by natural gas or propane generators to supply sufficient power. The goal is to provide enough power for the EVs to evacuate the devastated area. Lack of charging capacity during the power outages was an issue in the Carolinas last year when the hurricane hit that area.
There will be many issues and as well as innovations in the coming years as the technology matures and the vehicle market adjusts. These comments only address cars and light duty vehicles. Class 4 to Class 8 vehicles are whole new area of concern. Moving an electric powered Class 8 long haul 18-wheeler 600 miles is many years down the road, and will require a level of affordable technology that does not exist at this time.
Lee Grannis is Coordinator, Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition, Inc.
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