Texas bills electric car drivers US$200 a year over lost petrol taxes

By dpa | 20 September 2023

WASHINGTON: Drivers of electric cars in the US state of Texas are reeling from a new law which bills them an extra US$200 (RM939) a year to make up for lost petrol taxes.

The Texas law, which came into force at the start of September, flies in the face of efforts to persuade motorists to use low-emission cars in a state where only a tiny number of cars are electric.

Texas lawmakers passed the bill earlier this year and it obliges electric vehicle owners to pay a US$400 (RM1,878) fee covering two years when they register a vehicle or renew their registration.

Texas is only the latest of 33 US states to bill electric car owners as much as US$225 (RM1,057) annually for not using fossil fuels, according to the National Conference of State Legislature.

In many European countries and parts of Canada, electric cars are exempt from fuel taxes in order to encourage people to buy the cars which are more expensive than combustion-engined models.

According to the Texas Tribune news website, the number of electric vehicles in the oil-rich state increased sharply from 8,397 in 2016 to 105,807 in 2022. However, they still make up less than 1% of the total number of vehicles registered in Texas.

Officials said the legislation is being imposed because electric car drivers were not paying their "fair share" into a fund that helps cover road construction and repairs across Texas.

"It just seems like it's arbitrary, with no real logic behind it," Texas resident Tony Federico told the Texas Tribune. "But I’m going to have to pay it."

Luke Metzger from regional environmental group Environment Texas said the law was "pouring sugar in the tank" of the electric vehicle revolution.

"This punitive fee will make it harder for Texans to afford these clean vehicles which are so critical to reducing air pollution in Texas," he said.

Texas agencies estimated in a 2020 report that the state lost an average of US$200 per year in federal and state petrol tax dollars when an electric vehicle replaced a petrol-fuelled one. The agencies called the fee "the most straightforward"