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California Testing Surveillance Method to Tax EV Drivers

EVs are good for the environment, but bad for state budgets.

Electric vehicles may be good for the environment, but there is an unwanted side effect that’s been bad for the budgets of many states that rely on the gas tax.

And while some are finding ways around it via supersized registration fees for electrics, the state of California is exploring another way to beef up its highway funds – and it intends to treat all vehicle types equally.

According to a recent report in MotorTrend, gas taxes – the funds tacked on to every pump transaction – have been “dwindling” in California. Because the Golden State was home to 37% of light-duty EVs sold in 2022, the funding stream, typically used for road repair and highway projects, among other things, is in need of a boost.

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    This means California’s transportation department - known as Caltrans - is exploring a new way for drivers to pay their fair share via a pilot program called Road Charge. Instead of placing emphasis on how much gas a vehicle uses, it hopes to charge instead based on how many miles a vehicle is driven.

    But, how does Caltrans know how much you drive? 

    The pilot is asking voluntary participants to offer that up in one of two ways – either take a picture of their odometer and submit it, or allow for what amounts to the installation of a tracking device.

    Caltrans says the approach is to test whether a per-mile fee would prove to be a “fair and sustainable” way to replace the current gas tax. Participation in the trial is incentivized - with up to $400 for individuals who complete the required activities over the next six months. 

    But will California’s general populace be as motivated to support such a program, were it to become law? We might find out as soon as next year. Reports say the road use fee, “depending on the yield of the pilot program, would be implemented for all California drivers on July 1, 2025.”

    The state of California says that, for drivers of ICE vehicles who currently pay gas tax, the new program would not result in “a significant change” in how much they pay.

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