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New Hampshire Bills Target Vehicles That Don't Guzzle Enough Fuel

Two bills target hybrid and electric vehicles and even fuel efficient vehicles with new registration fees to increase road funding, as nine states did last year. However, many of those states also hiked gas taxes in the same legislation.
January 5, 2018, 12pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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New vehicle registration fees to help pay for road upkeep may be coming to New Hampshire if some legislators have their way. They target vehicles that aren't paying sufficient gas taxes, specifically hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs) and even very fuel-efficient vehicles, though they are opposed by some environmental advocates who would rather see hybrid and electric vehicles promoted, not penalized.

Annie Ropeikwho covers energy and environment for New Hampshire Public Radio, reports on the two bills on Jan. 1.

[HB1541] sets a $100 annual fee for hybrids, or $200 for electric vehicles, with increases if the gas tax goes up. 

The other is based on mileage -- vehicles that get under 20 miles to the gallon would pay nothing extra. After that, drivers would pay an annual fee based on how fuel efficient their car is -- up to more than $100 a year for electric vehicles.

Oregon passed legislation last year that implemented a similar registration fee schedule, with higher fees based on higher mileage [see variable vehicle registration fee based on fuel economy in this post], although the new fee is one of a slew of new or increased fees and taxes including hiking the gas tax by 10 cents, a half-cent motor vehicle sales tax, and even a new $15 bicycle excise tax, among others, as opposed to targeting a single source.

"Cathy Corkery, with the New Hampshire Sierra Club, says that's not enough to merit this big a fee," writes Ropeik. "They're not making nearly as much damage as the 18-wheelers and heavy-duty vehicles," she says. [More reasons to oppose EV fees were noted in a post last March.]

True, but there's no real difference in road damage caused by a Prius and a Hummer.

If either of the two bills pass into law, New Hampshire will find itself in a growing list of states that charge similar fees for hybrids and/or electric vehicles, from $50 in Wyoming and $64 in Virginia to $200 in West Virginia and Georgia, according to a data provided by Kevin Pula, Transportation Policy Specialist fo the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year alone saw nine states pass bills adding new fees to hyrids and/or EVs. The 2-page list of laws in 19 states is downloadable from the NHPR article.

As of submission time, only two readers had commented below the article. Both were Prius owners, and neither objected to the potential new fees. One of them, Dave Brooks, made a fitting analogy:

it penalizes people for making a choice that does less harm to all of us, like fining people for using a thermos instead of a one-time throwaway plastic drink bottle - but I also understand the need for road funding from a practical point.

Gas tax alternative?

Rather than solely targeting people for making an environmentally-friendly motor vehicle choice for additional road funds, why not do what other states that have implemented hybrid and/or EV fees — combine the fees with an increase in the gas tax, which was last increased in 2014 by 4.2 cents to 22.2 cents per gallon. Total state gas taxes and fees are 23.83 cpg, 29 percent lower than with the national average of 33.33 cpg, according to the American Petroleum Institute as of Nov. 1, 2017. 

Most residents in the Granite State do not know the state gas tax rate, according to research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire released last October. Furthermore, "[m]ore than 60 percent of New Hampshire residents would support a 10-cent increase to the state gas tax if needed to maintain the state’s highways and bridges." 

Hat tip to Gabrielle Weeks.

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Published on Monday, January 1, 2018 in New Hampshire Public Radio
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