Noel Oman of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported on plans underway at the Arkansas freeway department to raise the license fee for electric cars to what a gas-powered car pays in fuel taxes, maybe $180 a year.
It’s just about fairness, declaims Freeway Department Director Scott Bennett. There are only 333 electric cars in Arkansas now, but someday there will be many more. In that they don’t pay a fuel tax to speak of (some state general revenue is now slated, however, to help pay for highways) the thinking is that they should contribute to road maintenance, too.
Sure. But …. Those lightweight electric cars are negligible contributors to road wear, particularly since they generally drive much shorter distances, in addition to their light weight.
The \elephant in the room is the lack of discussion — as ever — about making monster trucks pay for the damage they do to roads. A government study says one 40-ton truck does the damage of 9,600 cars. What they pay in diesel tax doesn’t begin to cover it. Cars pay for the eternal rebuilding of interstates.
And the freeway builders’ first concern is fairness? A miles-driven tax, one alternative, seems at least fairer than assessing a $180 fee on an electric car that isn’t likely to rack up the average mileage of a gasoline-powered car. The fairest tax ever was the late ton-mile tax devised by former Highway Director Henry Gray. That provided compensation by truckers in line with the road damage. It didn’t survive.
When there are many more electric cars, I’m willing to bet average distances driven will be reduced and population density in places like Little Rock will increase. And, I bet, the freeway department will still be touting the need to widen the city’s freeways so people can get home to Cabot and Benton a minute or so sooner.