We all think that electric cars are great because they don't run on gas. Unfortunately, not needing gas means that those cars never end up paying any gas taxes, and Washington State wants to implement a fee to make up the difference.
At first, it sounds pretty stupid: "oh, you've got an electric car that doesn't need gas? Awesome, now pay us gas money!" The real issue, though, is that electric cars are driving on the same roads that gas-powered cars are, but they're skipping out on the gas tax that goes to pay for the maintenance of those roads. Washington state says that an additional fee for electric vehicles, which would probably amount to about $100 per year, is just being fair. Washington's existing gas tax of $0.37 per gallon works out to be about $200 for someone who drives 12,000 miles per year, by way of comparison.
For their part, EV owners are making the point that they buy electric cars in part specifically so that they don't have to keep buying gas, and besides, EVs are generally easier on roads and have many other environmental benefits that are harder to measure directly. From that perspective, imposing extra fees defeats, to some extent, the purpose of buying an eco-friendly car in the first place.
Nissan, whose Leaf electric car is one of the vehicles that would get whacked with a fee, has released this predictably neutral statement:
"Whenever new technology is being introduced, we'd like to see as few barriers to entry as possible. However, we recognize the need for all drivers to contribute to road-maintenance funds. We think this needs to be part of a larger conversation dealing with dwindling road funds, impacted by the variability of fuel economy in all types of vehicles."
What's probably going to happen is that a compromise will be reached where EVs are responsible for contributing some amount to road maintenance funds, perhaps on a per-mile basis, which would also incentivize driving less. The problem with going down this road, though, is where it might lead, and it makes me wonder whether a bicycle tax to pay for bike lanes is a future inevitability, followed by a walking tax to pay for sidewalks.