Lawmakers Working to Charge Electric Car Owners Additional Fee for Use of Roadways

URBANDALE, Iowa -- Electric car owners might be seeing an additional annual fee in Iowa next year. Last week, the House voted through a bill with bipartisan approval that would charge people with electric cars $130 on top of their yearly registration fee.

Every time someone with a regular gasoline car fills up their tank at the gas station, they are paying a Road Use Tax Fund that provides 45 percent of the funding for state, county and city roads. Since electric cars don’t need to stop at the pump, they don’t pay to support roadways, and this piece of legislation would change that.

“See how quiet they are?” State Rep. (D-Urbandale) John Forbes said, referencing his electric car.

More times than not, you’ll find Forbes and his wife, Cindy, humming around town in their Chevy Bolt. Forbes said getting a fully electric car was an investment worth making.

“It’s more the feel good part for me to know that I’m doing something positive for the environment,” Forbes said.

It’s as easy as plugging in the car and charging overnight.

“It cost me about $6 for me to charge this car for 220 miles in electricity cost,” Forbes said.

Not needing a drop of gasoline, Forbes never pays for the taxes on gas, but his car still contributes to the wear and tear on roadways. That’s why even he agrees there needs to be a way for electric car owners to pay their fair share.

“I think the majority of both parties in both the House and the Senate agree that we need to address this issue because we are going to see more and more cars in the future that are all electric and not paying that Road Use Tax Fund money,” Forbes said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation reported, as of December of 2018, there are 800 fully electric vehicles in Iowa. But the Legislative Services Agency projects more than 5,500 by by 2024.

“We need to get on top of this early to make sure we aren’t coming up short when it comes to road and bridges here in the state of Iowa in terms of funding,” Forbes said.

The bill has a gradual increase, starting at $65 a year per battery electric vehicle and increasing to $130 by 2022.

“Well, I think it’s a fair formula because these cars are not paying into the tax that goes to build our roads and keep them in driveable conditions,” Forbes said. “So this fee will be about what a normal car, that has driven over a 12-month period, will pay in road tax funds.”

If this bill gets through the Senate and is signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa will join 20 states that have special fees for electric vehicles. The bill also includes fees for plug-in hybrids and other electric and hydrogen vehicles.

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