New Hampshire:Legislation Seeks Surcharge On Electric Vehicles

A motorist charges an electric vehicle. (Courtesy Photo)

As electric vehicles gain in popularity, becoming less expensive and more efficient, and as more states and car manufacturers implement gasoline vehicle phase-outs beginning in the next 10 or 15 years, EVs appear to be the way of the future.

But that future will still be a world that needs money to pay for highways, roads and bridges, a good chunk of which now comes from the gasoline tax.

What to do when the gas tax is irreversibly reduced?

A state representative in Coos County is proposing legislation as a first step for New Hampshire.

State Rep. Dennis Thompson, R-Stewartstown, is part of a group that is looking into the revenue question independent of the New Hampshire Legislature.

“Basically, people with electric cars pay nothing to use the roads,” he said. “So my theory is, and it’s just a theory, if you’ve got an electric car in New Hampshire you probably live in the southern part of the state and you probably travel the turnpike because the shortest distance between two points. My proposal is we put a 50-cent surcharge on the tolls when they go through them, over and above the toll cost.”

The 50 cents is based on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that states for every one gallon of gas that a gasoline car uses it averages 32 miles and pays 28.3 cents a gallon in New Hampshire for the gasoline tax.

“But an electric car will go 136 miles on the equivalent of one gallon of gas,” said Thompson.”They’re getting five times as much mileage on the highways or what they pay to go through the toll, basically. So I figured it would be $1.40 if they were paying the gas tax to go 136 miles.”

Thompson said counter-arguments to his proposal would be from some EV drivers, who say they bought and EV because they are trying to be responsible, a position with which he said he agrees.

“And your reward will be that you don’t have to pay the additional 90 cents in gas tax that people with a gasoline car will pay to go that same 136 miles,” he said.

On the other side, some gasoline car drivers might ask why EV drivers should get a break just because they bought an EV, said Thompson.

“That’s why they should get a break,” he said. “They were smart enough to do what sooner or later all of us are going to have to do. They are getting a 90-cent credit and we’re giving them 90 cents every time they go through the toll because they are not creating carbon emissions.”

The bill is a temporary measure.

“The talking group I’m involved with eventually knows that we’re going to have to come up with a permanent solution for electric cars and how to road tax them,” said Thompson. “I believe that will be through the charging stations that are set up. They will have a credit card swipe and we can collect the tax based on the swipe of the credit card from the people who own those [EV charging] pedestals. Right now, Tesla and a few of the electric companies have them out there and they’re free. But they’re not going to do that forever. There’s a point where you’re going to have to pay for it, then it’s going to be taken over by private enterprise, much like payphones were. I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Just several weeks ago, General Motors announced it will no longer produce internal combustion engines, gasoline or diesel after 2035, Thompson noted.

States that have implemented phase-out in that same time frame include Washington and New York.

“I thought this was a way to introduce the pay-as-you-go theory to electric car people in New Hampshire,” he said. “I thought it gives them a way to pay the tax and get a big discount. Right now, they are getting a huge discount because they pay nothing.”

There might be some outcry because on the EV drivers who go through the toll booths pay the surcharge, said Thompson.

That is true, and because of that, one provision in the bill will be that it sunsets after five years, by which time the state will have likely come up with a better road tax system for EVs, he said.

The bill is now under review by the House of Representatives legal department.

“I’m guessing what legal is going to tell me about my bill is instead of a standalone bill they will attach it as an amendment to the RSA that regulates the gas tax,” said Thompson. “I think that would be fine with me because the Legislature tends to vote to amend RSAs as opposed to creating new ones.”

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