Senate bill explores charging fee for electrical and hybrid cars

A senate bill is being proposed to make sure everyone is paying their fair share for using the roads, and some drivers have an issue with how it will impact them.

Brian Kopp of Dickinson, ND drives a Tesla Model 3, and he said his electric car saves him about four times the amount of money he would pay per mile for gas, if he drove a regular car.

“You plug it in every night, and thats a lot cheaper per mile, because an electric car is a lot more efficient, ” said Kopp. 

When Kopp fills up his car, instead of looking at a gas gauge he looks at a battery charger like you would see on a laptop or phone, and instead of having a gas tank he has a battery port

He said he can get 300 miles when his battery is fully charged, and it adds about $20 on to his electrical bill every month, compared to the hundred or so dollars he would pay every month at the gas pump. 

However, Kopp and other electrical car drivers may soon feel a pinch in their fuel cost savings, because there is a bill in the state legislature aimed at creating an annual fee for electric and hybrid cars, which Kopp is in support of.

“We need to pay our fair share, because we use the roads too”.

Senate Bill 2061 was presented to a senate committee last week, and it is sponsored by Senator Curt Kreun of Grand Forks, and it would charge a $248 fee on electrical cars and $71 on hybrids.

The bill’s fiscal note said there are currently 141 electrical vehicles and 3,849 vehicles registered in the state of North Dakota.

If passed the bill would generate more than $600,000 each biennium.

A representative with the North Dakota Department of Transportation said in 2018 the state’s 23 cent per gallon gas tax generated $165.7 million. 

Sen. Kreun said the new stream of revenue the bill would create would be helpful in addressing the,  “huge backlog of maintenance” in communities and towns.

However Kopp and his friend Destiny Wolf, who also drives an electrical car, said the fees are too high, and the bill is juicing its numbers based on information they obtained from the Federal Highway Administration. 

“What we averaged was the average North Dakota driver drives about 11,500 miles per year . . . per vehicle,” said Wolf. 

The bill’s formula is using 15,000 miles as its base number and reads:

The average vehicle in North Dakota has a fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon and travels 15,000  miles per year, which results in an average vehicle using 600 gallons of gas per year. Multiplying the the state gas tax (.23 cents) and federal excise tax (.184 cents) by 600 gallons equals $248.40 in gas tax.

For hybrid cars it would be 35 miles per gallon and 429 gallons of gas per year.

Sen. Kreun said he used numbers for the formula that were given to him by the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

 A representative with the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute said its hard to estimate how many miles the average vehicle in North Dakota travels annually, and some studies use 15,000 miles per year as their base number and others use 12,000 miles per year. 

However, Kopp and Wolf also said the bill shouldn’t be charging and collecting federal gas tax. .

Sen. Kreun said he wants to use the federal tax as part of the equation, because regular drivers pay state and federal gas taxes at the pump.

“A huge amount of federal tax (gas) comes back to the state. . . we want everyone to pay their equal share”.

But Kopp and Wolf would like to see the bill revised with lower miles and without the federal tax fee.

“We figure the number should be closer to $105-$110 dollars per year, ” said Wolf.

Sen. Kreun said the bill will be voted on later this week, and revision could be made by committee members, but for now its wait and see.

According to the Nation Conference of State Legislatures, 20 states impose electric car fees, and if the bill passes North Dakota would have the highest.

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