Austin's NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Texas Standard

Should Electric Car Owners Pay A Fee To Use Texas Roads?

the front end of an elecritc car, with a cord coming out of it
Kårlis Dambrāns /Flickr (CC BY 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
/
Nissan e-NV200 electric car

From Texas Standard:

Drivers of electric vehicles, or EVs, in Texas may soon take a financial hit in the form of a new annual fee for “alternative fuel” vehicles. Texas lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would charge EV drivers between $190 and $240 a year, depending on vehicle size. Electric vehicle drivers are pushing back, many claiming they'd end up paying quite a bit more in taxes than others on the road.

The idea of the fee is that since electric vehicle drivers aren’t paying gas taxes, the government needs an alternative way to get money to fund infrastructure maintenance.

“If we're moving into an electric future, then a gas tax is a really terrible way to pay for our roads and bridges and other infrastructure that vehicles need,” said Sebastian Blanco, contributing editor for Car and Driver magazine. “Instead of the way it works today, which is every time you gas up, some of your money goes to pay for those roads and bridges and things, the idea would be to just charge EV drivers an annual fee and so that … the state can collect money from them just the way it does from gas powered vehicle drivers today.”

Some electric vehicle drivers say that the fee that Texas wants to charge is unfair, because it is disproportionate to the amount that gas vehicle drivers pay through gas taxes. But the state does need to raise money for infrastructure maintenance. Blanco said there are several alternatives other states are trying out, including something called a road use charge.

“Exactly how this would be calculated is being tested in a lot of different places, particularly on the West Coast, in the Pacific Northwest or sort of western states that are kind of trying to figure this out where you would simply pay a set fee per each mile you drive,” Blanco said. “And one of the issues with that is some people don't want to tell the government each year how many miles they put on their vehicle.”

Still, environmental advocates and electric vehicle drivers say that Texas’ approach disincentives green tech and “punishes” EV ownership.

“And I think that there's a good case to be made for that point of view. You can look at a place like California that has a very high gas tax and also big incentives for EVs, and they lead the country in the number of EVs on the road,” Blanco said. “So a state like Texas that would be looking at raising fees on an electric vehicle but not doing the same for gas powered vehicles is sending a very strong message to its residents which vehicles they should be most interested in.”