States charge more for electric cars as new laws take effect

  • Neda Deylami poses for a portrait while charging her electric vehicle on Dec. 20 at a Chicago area grocery store. Owners of electric vehicles in a number of states will start seeing fees to pay for road repairs in the new year. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The new year will bring new charges for some owners of electric vehicles, as an increasing number of states seek to plug in to fresh revenue sources to offset forgone gas taxes.

In Hawaii, the charge will be $50. In Kansas, $100. In Alabama and Ohio, $200.

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New or higher registration fees go into effect Wednesday for electric vehicle owners in at least eight states. For the first time, a majority of U.S. states will impose special fees on gas-free cars, SUVs and trucks — a significant milestone as the trend toward green technology intersects with the mounting need to pay for upgrades and repairs to the nation’s infrastructure.

Though electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles comprised less than 2% of new vehicle sales in 2018, their market share is projected to rise substantially in the coming decade. State officials hope the new fees will make up for at least part of the lost gas tax revenue that is essential to their road and bridge programs.

“I think states are still trying to determine what is a fair or equitable fee on these electric vehicle owners,” said Kristy Hartman, energy program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Imposing fees on electric vehicles is one of several societal trends reflected in laws taking effect in 2020.

Twenty-one states will raise their minimum wage, including several to $12 an hour or more. Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. And California will join about 10 states that enacted measures this past year relaxing deadlines to sue or prosecute for prior sexual abuse — a reaction to the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church.

Until now, the federal government and some states have offered incentives to people to buy electric vehicles. But federal tax credits are phasing out for some of the most popular models made by Tesla and General Motors, and some states also are switching course.

Illinois, for example, had offered a two-year license plate for electric vehicles for $35, a sizable discount over its basic $98 annual registration fee. Under a law that raised both registration fees and fuel taxes, electric vehicle owners will have to pay the new basic annual rate of $148, plus an additional $100 intended to offset the lost fuel taxes.

“It’s kind of a blanket penalty for anyone who chooses to go electric,” said Neda Deylami, a Tesla owner who founded Chicago for EVs, a group that advocates for electric vehicles.

Three-quarters of the revenue from Alabama’s new $200 fee on electric vehicles and $100 fee for plug-in hybrids will go to fund state and local roads and bridges. The other quarter will fund grants for electric charging infrastructure, and will expire once electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles surpass 4% of all vehicles in the state.

The fee is designed to bring “more than just a fairness relative to maintenance and construction of infrastructure,” said Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole, a Republican, who sponsored the legislation. “I think it went further in terms of planning for the future.”

Because average commuting distances vary by vehicle owner, it’s difficult to set a universally fair fee for electric vehicles, said Loren McDonald, a California-based industry analyst who runs the website EV Adoption.

“States are actually being very reasonable about this,” McDonald said, noting that some are charging less than what vehicle owners might otherwise pay for fuel taxes.

Other states with new or higher electric vehicle fees taking effect in 2020 include Iowa, Oregon and Utah. California, which accounts for nearly half of all electric vehicle sales in the U.S., is to collect a $100 fee on new “zero-emission” vehicles starting July 1.

Some other notable laws set to take effect Wednesday include:

Police use-of-force

The nation’s oldest law governing when police can use deadly force is being revamped in California to become what the American Civil Liberties Union describes as one of the strongest in the U.S. California’s previous law allowed deadly force when officers had “reasonable fear” for their safety. The new law will allow it only when necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders, but it doesn’t include a definition of “necessary.”

Another new California law increases officers’ training on handling confrontations. The changes come after Sacramento police in 2018 fatally shot Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black vandalism suspect, leading to major protests.

Guns

A Colorado “red flag” law will law allow family, household members or law enforcement to petition a court to have guns seized from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. A seizure can be extended to 364 days, and the burden of proof is on the gun owner to get firearms back.

The law was championed by Democratic Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex Sullivan, was killed in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting. Some Republican lawmakers and the group Rocky Mountain Gun Owners have sued to try to block the law, and about 12 of the state’s 64 counties have passed resolutions declaring themselves 2nd Amendment “sanctuaries” in response to it. Some sheriffs have said they won’t enforce the court orders.

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By contrast, a Tennessee law could allow people to more easily get permits to carry concealed guns.

The law creates a less-expensive permit option that doesn’t require live-fire training and instead allows people to take an online firearms training or safety course.

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