Electric Cars Make It Tougher For State To Fund Road Work

Dan Mitchinson
January 21, 2020 - 12:17 pm
Bay Area Traffic

(KCBS Radio) - The widespread adoption of electric cars in California is reducing gas tax revenue by millions of dollars a year. That's money that would have been used for road repairs.

Now, drivers of those cars are coming under increasing criticism for not paying their fair share to maintain the state’s roads.

“Electric cars cause as much wear and tear to highways as traditional cars,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit lobbying and policy organization.

When California’s controversial gas tax measure Senate Bill 1 was passed in 2017, lawmakers included a $100 annual fee for zero emissions vehicles so that electric car drivers would still contribute towards road repairs. SB1 was expected to raise $5.4 billion a year for the state, with $20 million of that coming from the road improvement fee. But the fee has yet to go into effect and only applies to cars with the model year 2020 or later.

The fee waiver is part of a slew of incentives the state has enacted to encourage Californians to buy more electric cars, with the goal of putting 5 million ZEVs on the road by 2030.

“They ought to pay their fair share,” said Coupal, who points out that most Californians can’t afford to go electric even with the incentives. “That is leaving the middle class and working class to bear the lion’s share of the burden for fixing our highways

"This is a question of elites versus working class," Coupal added.

Proponents say it was a necessary compromise to help repair the state’s roads without creating a major hurdle to the reach the goal for emissions-free vehicles. 

There are other ways to reduce emissions without levying taxes on Californians such as making improvements to the transportation infrastructure so that drivers spend less time in traffic, which would mean less driving overall, Coupal said. 

The $100 road improvement fee goes into effect July 1.