Anyway, along comes a report from the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. Its proposal? Switch EVs to a mileage fee while keeping the state's gasoline and diesel taxes in place.
California currently funds road repairs via gasoline and diesel taxes and, starting in 2020, an annual registration fee for zero-emission vehicles. The report, compiled at the request of Golden State lawmakers, notes that California already has a higher adoption of EVs than many other states that also use annual EV registration fees, and it bases its conclusions on former Gov. Jerry Brown's goal of having 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the roads in California by 2030 as part of a carbon pollution-reduction effort, including $2.5 billion to build EV charging and hydrogen fueling stations across the state.
The report says the ZEV registration fee is inadequate to fund the state's infrastructure needs, given the rising numbers of EVs set to hit the roads, and the researchers note that the fee penalizes drivers of plug-in hybrids, who must pay both gasoline taxes and the ZEV registration fee. Further, it says the flat $100 fee is wholly disconnected from actual miles driven, in contrast to gasoline taxes, which reflect the distance a motorist drives.
They conclude that, while instituting a road-user charge would bring higher costs for hardware and collecting fees, it would be the easiest and least-costly way to transition away from gas taxes.
"California now has the opportunity to support alternative funding mechanisms," report author Alan Jenn said in a statement. "Our study finds that a per-mile road charge, designed specifically for zero-emission vehicles, is a relatively low-cost and sustainable solution to funding our roads."
We'll have to wait and see what, if anything, California lawmakers elect to do with the recommendation. But if adopted and proven successful, it could become another example of the Golden State setting the pace for the rest of the country.