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12/27/2012 09:23 AM     print story email story  

Highway Tax Slapped On EV Owners in Washington State News

One of the big benefits of owning an electric vehicle (EV) is that you no longer have to go to a gas station. But even though EV sales are just starting to pick up, at least one state realizes there's a gap to fill - EV owners don't pay any gas tax. 

Starting February 1, 2013, EV owners in Washington state will have to pay a controversial annual $100 fee – basically to make up for what they no longer pay in gasoline taxes.

The law applies only to EVs that are driven on highways, not to neighborhood EVs that can't exceed 35 miles per hour. It also doesn't apply to hybrid or plug-in vehicles because they still fill up with gas.

That means a Nissan Leaf and Tesla Roadster would be subject to the tax, while a Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt would avoid it.

Roughly 1,600 cars currently registered in the state would be subject to the new tax, reports the Associated Press,. which would be paid when registrations are renewed. 

While California leads on purchases of EVs, they are also popular in the Seattle area.

The fee would cover wear and tear on Washington's roads, which is where gasoline taxes are typically directed.  The state's current gas tax is $0.375 cents per gallon and is the largest source of funds for transportation. On average, motorists that drive 12,000 miles a year (in a car that gets 23 miles per gallon) pay about $200 a year in taxes.

Supporters say the move is fair because anyone that uses the roads should chip in for maintenance, and they point out that most EV owners are exempt from state sales tax and also receive federal incentives when they buy the car.

Critics of the tax counter that EV owners may not pay gas taxes, but they do pay taxes on electricity, which they use to charge their cars. 

"... You're trying to do something good and they still find a way to get revenue. It's unfortunate," EV owner Joe Lambrix told Associated Press.

On the one hand, the state encourages people to buy EVs by exempting the cars from sales tax, and now they want to eliminate that advantage by charging a tax, notes Jay Friedland, legislative director for Plug In America.

Rather than applying a blanket tax, Plug In America believes other metrics should be used to calculate taxes, such as vehicle miles traveled or the weight of the vehicle.

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