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Under New State Law, Texas Electric Vehicle Owners Pay $200 Extra Per Year

— February 26, 2024

The Texas EV fee mirrors a broader national trend as states grapple with increasing EV adoption, resulting in a need to adapt taxation policies.

Electric vehicle (EV) owners in Texas now have to pay more to renew or register their vehicles in the state. Governor Greg Abbott recently approved a new law mandating that people who buy EVs must shell out $400 for registration, on top of the usual fees, while existing owners have to pay $200 annually to renew their registration. Notably, the bill — Senate Bill 505, which was passed by both the Senate and House last year — targets EVs specifically, and excludes hybrids, electric motorcycles, autocycles, and mopeds. With this new EV tax, lawmakers aim to compensate for the decline in gas tax revenue occurring as a result of the uptick in EV ownership throughout the state. Gas taxes in Texas generate over $3 billion annually, and fund road works. This development in Texas also adds to the ongoing legal discussions surrounding EV policies nationwide.

Rising tax burden for EV owners 

Under the new law, EV owners in Texas are probably now paying more in taxes than their counterparts driving traditional gas-powered vehicles. Considering that regular vehicle registration fees in Texas hover around $50, the introduction of the new fee represents a substantial increase for EV owners. With an additional charge of nearly $350 for new EV drivers and an annual increase of almost $150 for renewals, the financial impact is significant. Moreover, the surge in electric car adoption is expected to lead to a decline in gas tax revenue, which plays a crucial role in funding essential services such as highway infrastructure and public schools. Currently, a significant portion of the gas tax — $0.15 out of every $0.20 — is allocated to highway expenses, with the remaining $0.05 directed towards public education. Given that Texas drivers contribute an average of $9.52 in gas taxes monthly, totaling $114.24 annually, the reliance on gas tax revenue is evident. So, the higher EV registration fees are essentially compensating for the decline in gas tax revenue.

Addressing declining fuel tax revenue as EV’s become mainstream

Supporters of the new Texas EV tax argue it ensures Texans play a part in funding road expenses, backed by state gas tax revenue. “With the rise in EV usage, fuel tax revenue is declining, reducing our ability to improve roads for everyone,” said Texas Senator Robert Nichols, sponsor of the bill. The fee coincides with a notable surge in Texas EV ownership, with around 200,000 EV’s estimated across the state. In particular, the Dallas-Fort Worth region boasts 69,996 registered EV’s, while Houston has 45,566. Indeed, EV’s are gaining popularity due to their sustainability, potential cost savings on fuel, and advancements in technology leading to improved performance and range. Similarly, hybrids — vehicles that combine a conventional gasoline engine with an electric motor — are also increasingly popular as they offer improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions compared to traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. Hybrids appeal to consumers seeking a more environmentally-friendly option without the range limitations of full EV’s.

Calls for a mileage-based system

Conversely, critics (including policymakers) argue the added cost for registering EVs penalizes EV owners without properly addressing the state’s road funding issues. Consumer Reports, for instance, labeled the policy a “punitive tax on people who choose to go electric.” Generally, EV advocates would prefer a mileage-based system as a fairer and more equitable way to distribute the costs of road usage. Unlike a flat registration fee — which imposes the same cost on all EV owners regardless of how much they drive — a mileage-based system charges drivers based on their actual road usage. This means those who drive more would pay more, while those who drive less would pay less. Advocates argue this system mirrors the principle of gas taxes, where drivers who use more fuel pay more towards road maintenance and infrastructure.

National trends in EV registration fees

Man in suit with graph with upward trend superimposed; image by Geralt, via
Man in suit with graph with upward trend superimposed; image by Geralt, via

Texas isn’t alone in upping registration costs for electric cars. Aside from Texas, 32 states also demand special fees for EVs, while 19 states tack on charges for plug-in hybrids, the National Conference of State Legislatures reveals. In states like West Virginia, Alabama, Ohio, Arkansas, Georgia, Wyoming, and Michigan, in particular, drivers fork out $200 or more in EV fees annually. Meanwhile, in California (as well as other states), the annual charge is $100 or more. States like California, Utah, Indiana, Michigan, and Mississippi are also planning to raise EV fees gradually, adjusting for inflation or the consumer price index (CPI) over time. Typically, the money collected from these fees supports state highway projects. In contrast to many states where the EV fee only offsets state taxes, Texas’s fee is designed to account for both state and federal gas taxes.

The Texas EV fee mirrors a broader national trend as states grapple with increasing EV adoption, resulting in a need to adapt taxation policies. Undoubtedly, this shift highlights legal complexities surrounding transportation taxation, and existing frameworks must evolve to address declining gas tax revenues and fund infrastructure projects. Moving forward, legal practitioners and policymakers will work to shape regulations promoting sustainable transportation and fair taxation practices.

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