Electric Vehicle Fees Rankle Ohio Drivers, Advocates

Looking to increase funding for road repair projects, the state has passed some of the highest registration fees in the country for electric vehicles and hybrids leaving some to cry "double taxation."

by Laura Hancock, Advance Ohio Media / May 7, 2019
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(TNS) — Rick Geye figures he saves around 96 gallons of fuel each year by driving a Toyota Camry hybrid, compared to a model of the same vehicle completely powered by gasoline.

But the Shaker Heights, Ohio, resident calculates he’ll spend nearly $65 more a year driving that car than owners of the gasoline models, thanks to the new hybrid fee and gas tax that was passed by the Ohio General Assembly and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine that will go into effect in July.

It’s double-taxation and punitive for drivers who embrace technology and efficiency, critics say.

Lawmakers, looking for ways to shore up a gap in in road funding, said that hybrid and electric vehicles contribute to the wear and tear on the roads, too, and need to pay more. In fact, part of the reason Ohio ended up with a funding gap is because vehicles are becoming more efficient.

Owners of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles now have to pay $200 a year in registration fees. Owners of standard hybrids must pay $100.

The gas tax will increase by 10.5 cents a gallon to 38.5 cents.

“They’re already paying gas taxes," said Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio. “They just want to tax efficiency is what it seems. They’re basically taxing a technology.”

If hybrid and electric vehicle owners feel spurned, they join drivers in other states.

Ohio’s fees are the same as Arkansas’ and Alabama’s, both which also enacted new fees this year. North Dakota also introduced new fees this year, but they were lower: $120 for electric vehicles and $50 for hybrids.

Twenty-four states now have some sort of fee for electric or hybrid vehicles, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. They range from $50 to $200.

Ohio’s fees are is higher than Indiana’s, which range from $50 to $150, and are the same as West Virginia’s. Michigan’s vary by vehicle type and weight, from $47.50 to $235.

Although Ohio’s skew toward the higher end of the range, Zach Doran, president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association, said he understood the underlying road and bridge needs that prompted the legislature to enact them.

“Our pursuit during that debate was basically from a commerce perspective: Let’s try to make sure Ohio doesn’t stand out compared to other states, especially our neighboring states, with the fees we are charged,” he said.

However, for drivers such as Geye, it’s about more than money. Driving a hybrid Camry and Tesla Model 3 is about clean air and combating climate change.

His Camry emits 1,920 pounds less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than a traditional Camry, he said.

Policymakers in Columbus disincentivize actions that care for the future of the planet, he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency determines his version of the Tesla Model 3 gets an equivalent of 126 miles a gallon.

“We would have to drive it 65,111 miles per year to earn the $200 a year tax,” he said.

However, the Republican supermajority that controls state government doesn’t philosophically agree that climate change is an imminent threat.

Greg Lawson, a research fellow from the conservative Buckeye Institute, said his think tank supported a fee proposal that was fair, since the drivers need to pay for the roads they use. However, he said it’s difficult to settle upon the right level of fee, since cars have different weights and hybrid and electric technologies.

Lawson anticipates the legislature will continue to face the question about how to fairly obtain money from drivers on the roads. The bill DeWine signed last month creates a study committee that will look at how the state obtains road funds in the future, including looking at the concept of charging drivers for the vehicle miles traveled in their cars.

“This gets to the question about how are we going to do things in the long term. There is going to be constant adoption of new technologies and new efficiencies, even in the gas cars," he said. “What is the paradigm that we use to fund these roads?”

©2019 Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.