Washington Senate Passes Bill to Charge Electric Vehicle Owners a $100 Annual Fee

By · February 16, 2012

Coulomb charging station in Washington

Washington's Senate passed a bill that call for owners of electric vehicles to pay a $100 annual fee to compensate for not paying gas taxes. The bill must be passed by the House to become law.

The state of Washington's Senate has passed a controversial bill that calls for owners of electric vehicles to pay a $100 annual fee to compensate for the lack of gas taxes.

The bill—sponsored by democrat Senator Mary Margaret Haugen—aims to makes up for lost gas taxes by charging owners of fully electric vehicles a $100 annual fee. The fee, which reportedly doesn't apply to hybrid, plug-in hybrid, extended-range electric or neighborhood-electric vehicles, will be used for road services, including repairs to streets and other road-related activities deemed necessary by the state. The $100 annual fee aims to make up for lost gas taxes, which checks in at 37.5 cents per gallon in Washington.

"We think the purchase of electric vehicles is great for the environment, but we also need to maintain our roads, which is why we have the gas tax," said Senator Haugen. "Electric vehicles put just as much wear and tear on our roads as gas vehicles. This simply ensures that they contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads."

Senate Bill 5251 was introduced in 2011. The bill passed the Senate last year, but didn't receive the necessary support from the House. Mary Haugen, the Senate's transportation committee chairwoman, along with the rest of the state's Senate, voted on Saturday to pass the bill 31-16.

“Before accepting an application for a vehicle registration for an electric vehicle that uses propulsion units powered solely by electricity, the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent appointed by the director shall require the applicant to pay a one hundred dollar fee in addition to any other fees and taxes required by law. The one hundred dollar fee is due at the time of initial vehicle registration and annual registration renewal.”

Wording in Washington Senate Bill 5251

The bill now moves on to the House. If passed, electric vehicle owners will pay up to $1.9 million to the state's budget by 2017.


· · 6 years ago

That is the equivalent of someone in a Prius driving 13000 miles.

I drive about 4000 miles/year why should I pay so much more than when I drive a Prius?

How does this work with the Volt which obviously uses gas as well. Do you have to pay double?

· · 6 years ago

Washington state sticks 37.5 cents per gallon on gasoline. So at $100/yr that's equivalent to buying 267 gallons/year, or at ~24 MPG (national average per BTS) a total of 6,400 miles per year of driving. That actually seems pretty reasonable to me.

I think the best system that could be implemented without GPS tracking of every vehicle would be annual fees based on odometer readings and vehicle weight. Naturally there is a problem with vehicles driven in a state other than where its registered though...

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

so maybe with a smart grid and smart meters, the tax should be based off actuall vehicle charging and electricity consumption (for the EV only!)

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

This is what I sent to my representatives:

This bill is very poorly written. While I very much want to pay my fair share, the wording of the bill taxes 100% electric vehicles, while ignoring plug-in hybrids. A driver of a plug-in hybrid vehicle (like the Chevy Volt) can continue to avoid paying road taxes under SB 5251. All they have to do is only use the electric power of the vehicle and never run on gasoline, while a LEAF driver pays $100 per year. How is this fair? The LEAF has 0% emissions, which should be a huge benefit to the area given our current smog problem.

Further, this $100 tax is excessively high. If I drive 10,000 miles per year, the tax works out to $0.01 per mile in tax. I currently pay $0.03 per mile for the electricity to drive the car. That works out to a 25% tax per mile. This will dramatically limit adoption of a technology that is a clear benefit to the region. We have an abundance of clean, cheap hydroelectric power. Approving this tax is a vote against energy independence, clean air, and punishes buyers who are trying to help the most.

Please vote against this tax as it is poorly formed not fair.

· · 6 years ago

Perhaps LEAF owners in Washington should get a really, really small motor installed.

Clearly it is the 3, or whatever, LEAFs in Washington that are wearing the roads out.

This might be a real issue 10 years from now, but doing this now is obviously some state senators doing what they are paid by the oil companies to do.

At least they are not making the EV owners install a separate meter.

· TD (not verified) · 6 years ago

It's worth noting that the Washington State legislature punted on charging a fee for studded tires which are proven to cause significant damage to roads. Apparently they are OK with giving the small number of electric car owners a symbolic middle finger with a proposal which will generate a few thousand bucks a year while fearing the block back of charging a few dollars when studded tires are added to a car.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Smidge204: except, pure electric EVs get over 80 "mpge". So it's more as if they're claiming that people with pure EVs go 20,000 miles a year every year. Meanwhile people with plug-in hybrids (e.g., the Volt) who use maybe 10 gallons of gas for an entire year, and drive the average of about 12,000 miles, pay $3.75 in gasoline taxes.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

If gasoline taxes are fair (and the fact is that they aren't so this is like saying "if the sky is sparkly orange", i.e., one can put pretty much anything after that, but never mind that...), then the EV tax should be based on miles driven electrically in the state, multiplied (or divided) by the efficiency of the electric drive, and this charge should be levied against all EVs, whether "pure" or plug-in hybrids.

This is, of course, "too hard" to compute. More importantly, we know that gasoline taxes are not fair. It's more reasonable to simply charge state and federal taxes on "total miles driven" with some sort of weight-related adjustment, since heavier vehicles do more road damage. Yes, this means that if you drive outside of your "home" state, they get extra money. But we could dump gasoline taxes entirely, and use yearly odometer readings during yearly registrations to compute the tax bills.

The above proposal is not perfect either, it's just better than what we have now. I'm not suggesting that we do it any time soon, either: we should be subsidizing electric cars for a while, and allowing EV (and plug-in hybrid) owners to escape fuel taxes for another decade or so seems like a good idea to me.

· · 6 years ago

Well look on the bright side, if it's equal to 13k miles, then you'll definitely be sure to get that car out there on the road now. $10-$20 wasted dollars may be on the line. hehe

It's extra nice though if you drive further. Pardon my grammar. hehe

· · 6 years ago

Darell has a brilliant idea: why not just charge more for gas? You know... penalize the part the kills us faster. Or how about charging for gas what it actually costs us? Or wait... maybe that wouldn't be "fair."

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

This just PROVES there are way too many lawmakers with way too much spare time on their hands! Is the Washington budget suffering a shortfall due the excessive number of EVs on the road? A MUCH easier solution is to just raise taxes of petrol and leave EVs 100% untaxed. or just trim down the number of senators if they're looking to balance a budget!

· CharlesF (not verified) · 6 years ago

If the tax is to be proportional to the damage done to the roads, than cars should not have to pay much at all. To be fair the tax should be some amount times the miles driven times the weight of the car to the third power. With trucks weighing 20 times a car and traveling so many more miles on average, cars are just in the noise.

So if you do not care about the stated reason ("need to maintain our roads" and "contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads"), and want the tax to be somewhat fair try the following for a Leaf (1521 is the mass in kilos):

$0.00000000000236833333 * 1521^3 * miles driven

For 12,000 miles that works out to $100.00 for the leaf. Under their current system a midsize family car would pay about $166.67. A 5000 pound pickup truck would be $333.63 for the same 12,000 miles. The truck getting 19 MPG would only pay $236.84 under the current system. A tractor trailer weighing 80,000 pounds would pay $1,366,551.47 for just 12,000 miles, but that would be the fair amount to pay for the relative road damage.

If you are going to make the EVs pay a fixed amount, it would be only fair for the other cars to pay a fixed amount as well.

In summary, trucks destroy the roads, not cars. Anybody talking about "fair share" is uninformed or worse.

· oneSTARman (not verified) · 6 years ago

I am a Washington State resident and I find this INFURIATING. I already wrote my representatives about it; but because I am not a Lobbyist with a sack of Money I was ignored. A Renter is not charged a Made-Up Fee because they pay no Property Tax; but uses the services those taxes Pay for. The REAL reason for this Tax is to make the purchase of an EV Onerous; because Greenies don't LOVE Oil.

· · 6 years ago

Who is paying their fair share for the clean air that my cycling and solar-powered EV ensures?

· · 6 years ago

Be careful, Darell. They aren't trying to assess road taxes on our bicycle miles (yet). Better watch out for the road wear caused by those knobby mountain bike tires!

· Priusmaniac (not verified) · 6 years ago

What about 100 $ per year for pedestrians to pay for maintenance of sidewalks.
This is completly in the oil lobby's way. A clear dumb decision.

· · 6 years ago

@Chris T. - But fuel economy has nothing to do with wear-and-tear on the roadways. There is a gasoline tax because that's the most convenient way to collect money, but it's only a proxy for what you are really collecting that money for: You burn more fuel burn, the farther you have probably driven and the heavier your vehicle probably is.

Now, that approximation is getting worse and worse with the introduction of EVs/PHEVs and higher fuel efficiency standards. This is why I support a more direct means of collecting money for use of public roads. Miles+Weight is itself still only a proxy, but it is independent of fuel type and vehicle efficiency, neither of which have ANYTHING to do with road wear.

But I also support keeping the fuel taxes as a penalty for environmental and economic wastefulness.

@oneSTARman "A Renter is not charged a Made-Up Fee because they pay no Property Tax; but uses the services those taxes Pay for."

This is a silly argument. The land owner is charged property tax, and the cost of that tax is undoubtedly passed on to you (and any other renters) as part of the rent you pay.

· · 6 years ago

I would have bet France would be first to tax EVs, but that's all right if we're not taking the lead...

· · 6 years ago

This is the most stupid thing I have ever heard.
It's like charging non-smokers a tax because they're not paying cigarette tax.

· · 6 years ago

Mr. Fusion - I love that. I posted a comment on the NY Times pages too - we ought to be raising the fuel tax federally if we want to increase EV use AND raise money for roads. The tax has not increased in almost 20 years and is only 18.4 cents/gallon.

· · 6 years ago

Ah, my schizophrenic home state of Washington. We promote the adoption of EV's by granting a sales tax exemption on their purchase. We have net metering and incentives to promote solar energy. And we have a senator and a senate that thinks the way to maintain Washington's roads is to claw back $100 / year from EV owners.

Yet, as TD reports above, no action on studded snow tires, which, according to the Spokesman Review:

"A fiscal report on the proposal says studded snow tires cause an estimated $24.7 million in damage to the state’s roads every year. The fee, which would be collected when a new studded snow tire is sold, would raise about $475,000 per year. The money would be placed in a motor vehicle account set aside for road maintenance."

Senator Haugen was one of the co-sponsors for the bill that proposed to add $5.00 / studded tire, which would only minimally offset the damage they cause. Why did this bill not get any traction? There are plenty of great studless snow tire choices out there.

Senator Haugen says, "Electric vehicles put just as much wear and tear on our roads as gas vehicles. This simply ensures that they contribute their fair share to the upkeep of our roads." Well Senator Haugen, I run studless snow tires, so I'd like a rebate for the damage I'm not doing the roads of Washington state. It's only fair.

I agree with Darrel - incentive what you want to promote, and tax what you want to dissuade.

· · 6 years ago

Hmmm! Thought I was already paying taxes on electricity. Is this double taxation? Tax my income, tax my electricity and now tax my electric car. If it moves it needs a tax.

· · 6 years ago

It seems the word "tax" is too much of a loaded term, and a lot of very faulty viewpoints are taken because of it.

How about we call it a universal toll? Because that's pretty much what it is. All roads are implicitly toll roads, and now instead of paying that toll by proxy through the fuel you buy, you'll pay it directly.

It's really not a difficult concept to grasp. Don't let the word "tax" work you up into a blind rage of idiotic analogies and bad arguments.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

This is double taxation we pay taxes on electricity and fees .

· · 6 years ago

This is double taxation in exactly the same way as having to buy your beer from the concession stand after you're already bought your ticket for the game is like being charged twice by the stadium.

· Merlinus (not verified) · 6 years ago

When a politician talks about "fair" it's just double-speak. What a politician really wants is more power over your money and he will spout whatever rhetoric he thinks will sell it to the "ignorant masses". Since, for now at least, most EV owner's are a wealthy minority it will take personal lobbying or an explosion of common sense in the masses to overrule these power hungry dirt-bags.

· · 6 years ago

>> Since, for now at least, most EV owner's are a wealthy minority <<

This is not the case, generally. At roughly $25k out of pocket for the LEAF, EVs are not just for the rich and famous. And as a relevant data point, my EV has been the cheapest car (in Total Cost of Ownership) that I've ever owned.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

It is important to note that this bill will face some opposition in the Washington State House of Representatives:

Thanks for writing me to express your opposition to SB 5251, imposing an additional vehicle license fee on electric vehicles. I do not support increasing fees or taxes on folks, especially during these tough economic times.

As the budget is negotiated in this year's Session, I will keep your opposition of new fees for electric cars in mind. Sustainable transportation options are an important piece of the economic puzzle and we must work hard to ensure people continue to have access to these types of things.

Thank you again for contacting me regarding this important issue and please do not hesitate to contact me in the future to express your support or concerns regarding the issues my colleagues and I will be considering.


Mike Hope
State Representative
44th District
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, Washington 98504-0600

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago


Now, that approximation is getting worse and worse with the introduction of EVs/PHEVs and higher fuel efficiency standards. This is why I support a more direct means of collecting money for use of public roads.

Sure ... but in that case, let's just have a fee for all cars. Better yet, let's make it weight-dependent. Oh wait, we already have that, it's called the "registration fee"!


If you want to add miles-driven as a factor, just ... add that as a factor, as I suggested.

· Chris T. (not verified) · 6 years ago

@CharlesF: I really like your calculations. :-) Even with the cube of the weight, thought, it's still not really perfect, since a substantial amount of damage is simply weathering etc., and the design of the tires has a lot of impact (see "studded tires" comments), as does driving style on asphalt when it's hot (asphalt becomes kind of plastic and can be pushed around by acceleration—here I am using the word in its physics sense to imply cornering and braking as well).

(Truck weights are also quite load-dependent, which is why there are weigh stations for them, and they do actually contribute a lot to road maintenance money. Not sure about WA state here, but I believe Calif is pretty good at collecting.)

· · 6 years ago

@Chris T.

I'm with you 100% on the per-mile fee. I think the best solution is a mileage-based, weight and class compensated fee for all vehicles and I'm pretty sure I said so not only elsewhere on this site and internet in general, but in the very same post you quoted.

What you seem to be missing here is such a fee would be annual (or bi-annual...) and guess what? For most people, it'd probably be around $100-$150 per year.

So in terms of total financial impact? This bill is in the ballpark IMHO.

· · 6 years ago

OK. How about placing ground penetrating radar units on the front and back bumpers and comparing the condition of the road before and after the car passes over it?

Then people can be billed for the exact amount of damage they do :)

· · 6 years ago

@alt-e. Made me laugh!

· Merlinus (not verified) · 6 years ago

Wealthy is being able to pay 25K for a new car, my last "new" car cost me 3k.

· · 6 years ago

For some "wealthy" is being able to afford to own any car. Or a computer with internet connection. We could go on for days... The point is that an EV can be purchased for about the same as the average US new car price.

You used the term "wealthy minoriity." Those who can afford a $25k car are NOT the wealthy minority. They're the mainstream car buyers of America.

· · 6 years ago

My last car was $950 which was probably less than Darell's last bike.

· · 6 years ago

@ regman -

Oh, my friend. We shouldn't even go there, I'm sure. Cycling is huge for me. I ride more miles than I drive any car.... Suffice it to say that I spent more on my last set of wheels than you spent on your last car. And that's likely all we need to say about that. ;)

· · 6 years ago

@Merlinus "Wealthy is being able to pay 25K for a new car, my last "new" car cost me 3k."

You are way off base.


" the average transaction price for passenger vehicles in the U.S. totaled $29,817 in May"

You can also take a look at the top 20 cars in the US. Almost all of them sell for over $20k.

· · 6 years ago

Ok, I'm feeling nutty:
". . . I spent more on my last set of wheels . . .
And I'll bet you (or your parents) spent even more on the "motor" :-)

· · 6 years ago

@ex-EV1 -

What my mom spent on the motor vs what she thinks I'm worth today are probably at odds. And not in a good way!

I have to admit that my bicycle efficiency is quite poor. I only get about 200 mpgob*. though sometimes I use an alternative fuels, beer is always my first choice.

*miles per gallon of beer

· · 6 years ago

What is the MPGe to MPGob multiplier?

· · 6 years ago

I think it is the hops.

· · 6 years ago

I think it it is 2 since you start seeing double.

· D. Miles (not verified) · 6 years ago

Here we go again, just because you don't use gasoline does not mean you are responsible for the poor maintenance program for your state highway. But you are such good as citizens you volunteer to pay more than your fair share in road tax. Oregon agreed to pay 1.4 cents per mile and that set a precedent. And Washington meekly is submitting to a $100 extra road charge with each year's vehicle registration, Now Arizona is considering an additional one cent per mile road charge for EV and Hybrids. (" Because they get such good mileage at over 100 mpg they aren't buying enough gas to pay the tax to fix the roads.) That is not a valid agreement. Just look at a residential street - it lasts 30 years, but the Truck-route, it lasts less than one year. I would infer that heavy laden trucks destroy roads, not cars, electric or not. And, who benefits from truck traffic? Consumers! Trucks bring the stuff to stores, and don't tell me they are half empty. I have driven a full load of beer from Tampa to Miami, and the trailer was only half full but the weight was a full 80,000 lbs. Most trucks are on the road with full loads. They measure the load size by weight. The only fair way to fix the road tax versus road repair debacle is increase the general sales tax by one cent and that will raise sufficient funding to fix the highways and roads. You want proof? Visit Polk County Florida, ten years ago, they added a one cent extra sales tax in their county and have used it on the roads. All the roads are now in good condition many have been widened, turn lanes added, traffic lights updated and added overall much better than 10 years ago. The nice thing about a sales tax penny is every consumer contributes. The Rich buy more and pay more tax. The poor buy food and pay no sales tax anyway (In Florida!) The Tourists and transients make purchases like motel rent and restaurant meals and pay sales tax. The truckers still carry the goods but the drivers pay but a few extra pennies for tax on meals. But when the items they deliver to the stores at the mall or downtown are sold, the sales tax is collected and a penny helps pay for that wear and tear on the roadways. The sales tax for road repair is a lot more sensible than singling out electric cars and hybrids and charging them one cent extra per mile (Like Arizona) or $100 extra each year (Like Washington.)

· David S. (not verified) · 6 years ago

Email sent to my washington representatives:

This bill unfairly singles out pure electric vehicles, while vehicles like the Volt and plug-in hybrids, which use very little gasoline, are not taxed.

As a community, we need to be supporting this transition to a more sustainable and environmentally sound means of transportation rather than penalizing those who are absorbing the risk of change. EV's support the local economy by keeping fuel (electricity) production local, and are already taxed for that electricity production.

As a constituent, I will be watching to see if your loyalties are more to our environment, local economy, and positive change, or to supporting the oil industry.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

If I lived there & they didn't also charge bicycle owners the same fee, I'd really be pissed.

Re-elect no one.

· · 6 years ago

@ Anonymous (above) - please tell me you're kidding.

· Sparks (not verified) · 6 years ago

Aston Martin DB9 owners get 13 MPG. Clearly they are paying more than their fair share for a car that weighs a bit more than a Volt. Will they get a check from the state of Washington ?

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Why don't these people just register in another state that doesn't charge the tax, you can still drive your car in Washington. Think out of the BOX people come on this is too easy!!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The Volt buyer pays 4,000.00 in sales tax

The Leaf buyer pays zero.

Perhaps the Leaf buyer would prefer to pay 4,000.00 up front instead of 4,000.00 over 40 years.... Assuming they drive the car that long...

Any Leaf owners, here is my offer, you give me $4,000.00 cash to reimburse my sales tax payment to Oly and I will pay your 100 per year tax as long as you own your car.....


· Leaf Driver (not verified) · 5 years ago

I see a potential Equal Protection problem as this only targets one class of citizens over others. Also, we EV drivers pay taxes through our electricity supplier, as well as taxes on everything else we purchase, own, etc., other than gasoline. Although I can't be sure in WA, but I don't think that gas taxes go strictly to road maintenance. This is punitive, for sure and wrong-headed.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

No Leaf Driver you do not pay taxes on everything else....

In Washington State the Leaf is tax exempt on the initial sales tax.... that savings is far more value than the 100/ year tax.....

Again, any Leaf driver feeling ripped off give me $4,000.00 for my Wash State sales tax on the Volt and I will pay your $100/ per year as long as you own your car.....


crickets .......

· Stathi (not verified) · 5 years ago

Seems pretty low to me, but I would have to do the math. Make it $300 a year, and add a bicycle road usage tax or a require a special permit (say $20 a year) to ride your bicycle on public roads, and then I might be happy.

· · 5 years ago

@ Stathi -

I'd be fine with $300/year for my EV and $20/year for my bicycles (wait... you want me to pay $20 for EACH bicycle, or just $20 because I ride a bicycle?). Provided that you pay me $500/year for the clean air and water, and the reduction in noise pollution and congestion that I'm helping to maintain by doing virtually all of my travelling with my solar-powered and human-powered vehicles. Toss in an extra $50/year for the undetectable wear and tear on the roads that my bicycle creates. Who is paying for the pollution being created by the gas cars?

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