InTransit: Should electric-car owners pay higher state fees?

  • Tesla owner Sanjiv Akhand of Naperville charges his car in Rolling Meadows. He is dubious about bills pending in Springfield to hike vehicle registration rates for electric cars.

      Tesla owner Sanjiv Akhand of Naperville charges his car in Rolling Meadows. He is dubious about bills pending in Springfield to hike vehicle registration rates for electric cars. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Drivers charging their Teslas at a facility in Rolling Meadows had doubts about proposed legislation to raise rates for electric car vehicle registration in order to help fund transportation.

      Drivers charging their Teslas at a facility in Rolling Meadows had doubts about proposed legislation to raise rates for electric car vehicle registration in order to help fund transportation. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Brewner of St. Charles owns an electric BMW i3 Rex and has questions about proposed increases in vehicle registration.

    Kevin Brewner of St. Charles owns an electric BMW i3 Rex and has questions about proposed increases in vehicle registration. Courtesy of Kevin Brewner

 
 

Is the free ride over for electric vehicles?

Currently, owners of Nissan Leafs, Chevrolet Volts and Bolts, and Teslas escape the state's 19-cents-per-gallon gas tax.

But state lawmakers and transportation boosters eager to produce a capital bill with funding for roads and bridges are eying higher fees for green cars to capture lost revenue.

Electric cars cause wear and tear on roads, too, Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association CEO Mike Sturino said. "Why should the affluent drivers get a free ride on the backs of lower-income folks?" he said, referring to the hefty price on some electrics.

Two proposals pending in Springfield seek gas tax hikes and increases in car registrations, among other ideas, with hopes of raising about $2 billion for roads and transit annually.

One bill supported by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce would triple electric vehicle registration. A second plan backed by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 would spike the rate to $130.50 from roughly $17.50. (State policy charges $38 for two years for electrics.)

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"I realize gas taxes will not affect me much," said Kevin Brewner of St. Charles, owner of a BMW i3 Rex all-electric. " ... Driving on the roads in this state does require me to support the maintenance despite the fact that I don't pay gas taxes."

"To be fair, however, my car weighs less than half of a Cadillac Escalade, or Ford F-150," Brewner said. "With that in mind, I don't necessarily support any bill causing me to pay more than others driving huge vehicles on the road."

At the Tesla charging station at a Meijer parking lot in Rolling Meadows, Sanjiv Akhand of Naperville rolled his eyes at the legislation.

"Our government, just like corporations, needs to find savings inside rather than just go to the people all the time when they need money," the Tesla owner said.

Sturino argues that "while the average motorist pays $309 annually in gas tax for the chronically and dangerously underfunded Road Fund and transit systems in Illinois, electric vehicle owners pay no gas tax. How does that make sense?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

State and federal governments had encouraged drivers to buy electric vehicles with tax rebates as high as $11,000, said John Walton of Wheaton, president of the Chicago Clean Cities advocacy group for alternate cars and fuels.

"There needs to be a comprehensive and fair way to raise revenue to pay for Illinois transportation infrastructure," Walton said. "The taxes on fuels need to be overhauled and not piece-mealed together."

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch agreed electric cars have been "subsidized," but "they need to start contributing in a meaningful way to the Illinois roads they are using every day," he said.

Got an opinion on registration fees for electric cars? Drop an email to mpyke@dailyherald.com.

You should know

Sometimes it's fast, often it's slow, and that's Route 83 for you. But wait! DuPage County is studying how to improve Route 83 with a master plan that addresses "issues and opportunities as they relate to land use and transportation" on the corridor between Elmhurst and Wood Dale. Come learn more and offer your suggestions at two upcoming forums: 6 to 8 p.m. May 16 at Elmhurst City Hall, 209 N. York St., and 6 to 8 p.m. May 23 at Bensenville Village Hall, 12 S. Center St. To learn more, go to planroute83.org.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Your voice

Sarah Laschober of Roselle is skeptical about whether gas taxes actually fund transportation.

"Originally, back in the 1980s, we voted for a gas tax to fix and build our roads. Then Illinoisans found out the money was going into the general fund and used in other ways.

We voted again (in a 2016 lockbox referendum) and it won that the gas tax money was to go for building and repairing our roads only. How do we know that this is really happening?"

Gridlock alert

Sorry, Hoffman Estates. IDOT starts closing lanes on Barrington Road between Higgins Road and Route 20 in Hanover Park in order to seal cracks and re-stripe pavement. Work lasts through June.

Got fuel?

Now you can gas up and watch planes land at O'Hare International Airport.

The Chicago Department of Aviation began construction of a fuel station on airport grounds at the southwest corner of Higgins Road and Patton Drive.

The travel plaza is open to the public and will offer an electric charging station, alternative fuels and conventional gas, plus a drive-through restaurant and convenience store. The project finishes in November.

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