Saturday, December 31, 2016

Part 1- Introducing the tricky question of electric vehicles paying their fair share

This is the first in a eight-part series on gas tax, roadbuilding and electric vehicles. You can find links to the other parts at the bottom of this post.

The nugget for these posts was born when I first brought up the idea of buying an electric vehicle (EV) with my dad, he was supportive AND had some reservations. "Roads are built and maintained with the gas tax. You won't be paying that, so you aren't paying your fair share." The A+B does not equal C equation sounded logical, and at the time, I had no response about this concern. During that visit, I agreed with him. States and the federal government will need to figure out a new way to pay for the roads that both fuel-driven and electric vehicles use.

I left uneasy that I would not be paying my fair share. And now that Jay and I own a Chevrolet Volt, a gas/electric hybrid sedan that doesn’t use any gasoline if driven <50 miles on an electric charge that also gets nearly 50 miles per gallon fuel when we travel more than 50 miles burning fuel, I've been thinking more about that conversation with dad. Since we haven't added gas to the vehicle since buying it a month ago, it was time to do some research.

The original idea behind funding road building and maintenance with the gas tax is the more one drives on publicly built roads, the more a vehicle wears and tears roads and bridges, and so with increased fuel purchases, the more the driver pays at the gas pump. Likewise, bigger and heavier vehicles that do more damage to roads and burn more gas pay a larger amount by buying more fuel. By devising a gasoline tax, we created a “use fee” that was easy to collect. By taxing drivers at the pump, the gas tax effectively charged roadway users their fair share.

Back in the "good old days” when vehicles used lots of gas per mile driven, this tax system nearly funded all road building and maintenance. However, herein also lies the problem: the gas tax only works if we continue to burn fuel at the same rate as when this tax scheme was created, and only works if we continue to drive a lot. Both of these trends are changing.

This entry is the first in a series about the gas tax and why we have a much larger problem than vehicles that don't burn fuel using public roads. I invite you to read about my research, exploration and thoughts on the following topics.