An electric car tax won’t solve Pa’s transportation woes, but it could increase pollution | Opinion

October 18, 2019 6:30 am

By Shannon Baker-Branstetter

Electric vehicles are saving drivers money on fuel, and they help reduce harmful air pollution. But the state Legislature is poised to make it more expensive for people to choose electric vehicles by hitting Pennsylvanians with a new, extra tax.

In Pennsylvania, electric vehicles are about 68 percent less-polluting than the average gasoline-powered car, making them a great tool for fighting climate change and reducing harmful air pollution. Electric vehicles have come a long way in the last couple years.

Most automakers sell at least one electric model, they come in a range of vehicle types, and their acceleration, reliability, and owner satisfaction tend to get top marks from independent testing organizations like Consumer Reports. They also have lower maintenance and fuel costs, and are fun and quiet to drive.

Despite the benefits, members of the Pennsylvania legislature are considering slapping additional taxes on electric vehicle owners with some of the highest fees in the nation — at $250 or even $275 per year.

Electric vehicle drivers in Pa. would pay $250/year fee under advancing state House bill

That’s well above what average new gasoline-powered vehicle owners pay in gas taxes. This plan is both ineffective and unfair, because it wouldn’t solve the state’s transportation funding shortfalls, but could discourage drivers from choosing a vehicle that would save them money on fuel and help our environment.

Electric vehicles can also be good for the electric grid and help lower utility bills, especially if they are charged during off-peak times.

The charging of electric vehicles provides revenue to utilities and spread out the costs of electricity over greater volume, which can help lower electricity costs for everyone, including people who don’t own an electric vehicle.

State leaders can protect the interests of all the people they represent by helping to drive electrification forward, not slamming on the brakes through punitive fees for electric vehicle owners.

All drivers should pay to use our public roads in order to have stable funding to maintain them, but a large extra annual tax isn’t fair because vehicle owners pay it no matter how much or how little they drive.

A fee based on mileage or a heavier reliance on toll roads would more closely follow a pay-for-use system.

An annual electric vehicle tax also won’t raise much revenue, providing less than 0.2 percent of Pennsylvania’s road funding by 2025 even with strong growth in electric vehicle sales, so broader solutions that don’t penalize electric vehicles are needed.

The real problem of insufficient funding for transportation needs a real solution.

Shannon Baker-Branstetter is the manager of cars and energy policy for Consumer Reports. Learn more about electric vehicle fees at

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