Yes, we said benefit. How could paying a per-mile road charge help electric vehicle owners? We’re glad you asked.
First, a quick primer on road usage charging:
Currently, Oregonians pay a fuel tax—36 cents per gallon (38 cents starting Jan. 1, 2022)—to fund road preservation and improvement projects. But cars and trucks are using less gas or run on electricity, shrinking funds for our roads and bridges. With a pay-per-mile system, Oregonians pay for the miles they drive instead of gallons consumed.
A road usage charge weans us off fossil fuels with a modern, technology-based solution for road funding that combats climate change and assesses drivers fairly for their road use.
It’s a boon for EV drivers, too; here’s how.
It will save them money in the long run.
Most people have no idea how much rough roads cost them.
It’s important for us to fix and maintain our roads, and not just for safety reasons. The rougher the road is, the harder it is on your vehicle: parts fail earlier, tires wear faster and your battery range (or gas mileage) plummets. It all adds up. According to a 2014 ODOT-led report, drivers spend an extra $380 per year on vehicle repairs and other maintenance issues caused by rough roads.
By comparison, the average EV owner participating in Oregon’s road usage charge program (OReGO) pays $113 per year in road charges, based on average annual miles traveled. That’s just $0.018 per mile.
In short: EV owners spend more per year on vehicle repairs caused by rough roads ($380) than they would pay in annual road charges ($113).
Compared to increasing registration fees for EVs, road charging is more equitable.
Road charges, paid a little at a time, are more manageable for low-income drivers.
At some point, likely soon, electric vehicles will become less of a luxury and more the norm. As low-income drivers switch to electric vehicles, they may struggle to pay alternative transportation fees, like increased registration and title fees.
As of January 1, 2022 EV owners will pay $95 more per year to register their vehicle than the least fuel efficient vehicles, and $91 more to title their vehicle—regardless of how much they drive. These one-time fees disproportionately affect lower-income vehicle buyers because the fees are paid in a lump sum, up front. It can add nearly $500 to the purchase price of a new EV—which could discourage some people from buying an EV.
Contrast that with fuel taxes or road charges, which are paid in small amounts, incrementally—far more manageable for household budgets. And road charges are based on how much you drive, so families that choose to drive less can reduce that burden further.
The road usage charge technology platform could help Oregon combat climate change.
And isn’t that the point of going electric?
Oregon adopted a Statewide Transportation Strategy that focuses on addressing climate change. One of the strategies is “moving from a gas tax to a user fee that charges users for the true cost of travel.” Adopting a “utility-like” funding approach and using the state’s road usage charge system, Oregon could choose to levy charges to address climate and congestion based on: (1) access to transportation infrastructure; (2) roadway usage and greenhouse gas emissions shares; and, (3) peak period use or in congested corridors/areas. The OReGO road charging system would allow ODOT to address the problem of climate change instead of relying on burning of fossil fuels for transportation funding.