Letter to the Editor: Electric vehicles II

Dear Editor,

Ownership of an electric vehicle is simple, right? Plug it in, use it, plug it in again.

But there are a few issues that will need to be resolved before our society will fully come to terms with electric vehicles. One major issue is how to get them to pay their fair share of the costs connected with automobiles generally.

Highway construction, maintenance and repair, police and rescue services are currently paid for by the petroleum motoring public. Motor vehicle registrations, driver licenses, fuel taxes, tolls, are pooled into a Transportation Fund, dedicated to paying for driving related services. The authorities calculate the costs and the fees and taxes are determined to fund the services, especially road construction, repair, and reconstruction. Simple, right?

But what happens when the percentage of vehicles on the road begins to increase from its present miniscule 3 to 4%? Those vehicles pay no fuel taxes, which are the largest share of highway revenues to the state and federal governments’ highway budgets. That leaves four choices: first, reductions in amounts allocated to highway services, maintenance, repair, etc., over the long term reducing their quality; second, increasing the charges to owners and users of petroleum vehicles so that the amount for highway services remains the same; three, finding a way for the owners and users of electric vehicles pay an amount equivalent to what they would pay if their units were petroleum powered, with equality between costs of petroleum and elective vehicles; and four, shifting much of the cost to the general taxpaying public and disregarding allocating those costs to highway users.

Each of the first three choices will encounter resistance from somebody: the first by diminishing the quality of highway use; the second by giving electric vehicle owners and users a free ride, so to speak, at the expense of the owners and users of petroleum vehicles; the third by electric vehicle owners and users howling that they are being penalized for enduring the inconvenience and limitations of non-carbon motoring and incidentally saving the planet.

The second choice would require a simple outcome by increasing the petroleum fuel tax to a level estimated to produce the necessary revenue. Over time the increase in electric vehicles would impose first heavy, then very heavy costs on petroleum vehicle owners and users, as their numbers decline. They might holler, but it will discourage ownership of petroleum vehicles and accelerate the push for fully electric vehicles.

Eventually, however, the third choice will become necessary, although it might be avoided for a while. When petroleum vehicles become a minority, payment by electric units will be essential.

The third choice is a bit more complicated, but would work something like this. The state or Feds would calculate in some manner the average mileage use of all vehicles, including petroleum and electric units. The average miles per gallon of petroleum vehicles times the per gallon fuel tax would give an estimated average per vehicle fuel tax for petroleum vehicles. That amount would be charged to each electric vehicle, at the time of vehicle registration. Presto, the electric vehicles are bearing their fair share for highway costs, in the same proportion as for petroleum vehicles.

The fourth choice will probably eventually become the politically most palatable for those in government. Some costs will continue – driver license and auto registration fees, traffic fines – but the government honchos will rationalize that driving petroleum vehicles and their climate warming output off the road is a general public benefit, for which the general public will be charged.


Bruce Graham

Chester, Vt.

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