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Opinion: Pennsylvania Should Pass EV Bill for Revenue, Future

Replacing diesel and gas vehicles with EVs is the focus of government policy around the world, of $515 billion in auto industry research and investments, and of billions more in battery research and development.

electric vehicle
(TNS) — To Benjamin Franklin's observation that "in this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes," add the inevitably of electric vehicles.

Replacing diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles with EVs is the focus of government policy around the world, of $515 billion in auto industry research and production investments, of billions more in battery research and development, and of rising consumer interest.

In Pennsylvania, the number of registered electric vehicles doubled from 2020, when there were about 15,000, to 2022, when there were more than 30,000.

For EV drivers, the joy of driving past the gas station is compounded by the joy of not paying the state gasoline tax, which is the second-highest in the country at 61 cents per gallon.

That portends trouble for drivers of EVs and conventionally powered vehicles alike, because gasoline and diesel fuel taxes are the state's primary state source of revenue for highway and bridge maintenance and construction.

As electric vehicles grow as a percentage of the state's total vehicles, state fuel tax will continue to decline, along with fossil fuel consumption. To maintain roads and bridges, the Legislature must devise a different tax structure.

The main options are a flat annual rate per vehicle, or using technology akin to E-ZPass transponders to assess a tax per mile driven, or a combination of both.

Rep. Rich Irvin, a Huntingdon County Republican, plans to introduce a bill in the new legislative session that would give EV owners the option of paying an annual flat rate tax or a per-mile tax.

The state would charge hybrid-vehicle drivers 0.025 cents per mile or $214 a year. Plug-in EV owners would pay 0.031 cents per mile or $265 a year.

Because of the inevitability of the ongoing EV transition, the question for lawmakers is not if a change is necessary but when to enact it. A similar bill was approved by the House Transportation Committee in 2021 but never was brought to a vote by the full House.

Irvin's proposal is for a five-year pilot program. Lawmakers would be wise to establish the new structure as the drive to EVs accelerates.

© 2023 The Citizens' Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.