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The West Virginia Electric Auto Association (WVEAA) has released a position statement on West Virginia registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles. In short, West Virginia’s existing per gallon fuel tax to support public roads is antiquated and does not work as designed with fuel efficient, hybrid, and non-combustion engine vehicles. It should be replaced with a road usage fee for all vehicles based on annual miles driven by class of vehicle. Creating new registration fees for modern vehicles that do not fit into a decades old road taxation scheme is neither equitable nor sustainable.
Taking off my WVEAA hat and providing a bit of personal opinion, I would like to touch on how we might handle the transition from the existing gas fuel tax and how out of state drivers support West Virginia roads. For now, my personal opinion is that West Virginia should continue collecting liquid fuel taxes. However, if a mileage-based annual usage fee by vehicle class were implemented, West Virginia drivers of gasoline powered and hybrid vehicles should be issued a credit for estimated fuel taxes paid based on miles driven. This would offset the usage fee for those vehicles based on taxes already paid at the pump while collecting the full amount from out of state travelers. Ideally, I would base this credit on the most efficient vehicle in the class to reward those drivers that choose efficient vehicles and disincentivize less efficient vehicles (i.e., less efficient vehicles would receive less of a credit toward their usage fee). Fully electric vehicles would receive no credit from fuel taxes, of course, and would pay the full usage fee for their miles driven. Miles driven could be based on an odometer reading taken at the time of the mandatory annual vehicle inspection or during registration renewal. The DMV stores the odometer reading by VIN and compares it next year to determine miles driven. West Virginia drivers already show proof of property tax payment and insurance so showing the receipt from the mandatory vehicle inspection wouldn't be burdensome. Regardless of how it is implemented, the key takeaway is this: every driver is paying for their actual usage by miles driven.
In the future, as vehicles become more connected with onboard GPS and connectivity, I could see more automated solutions. Just as Amazon collects state and local taxes to submit to authorities based on address, I believe automakers or some governing authority could collect usage data from vehicles that is submitted to local authorities to collect miles driven data by location. For example, if I live in the eastern panhandle and commute to DC every day, I drive very little in West Virginia and should be mostly supporting roads in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. This concept could be extended even further to handle tolls for road segments or congestion fees during different times of day for example (with proper driver notification of course). The natural response to this is privacy concerns although I believe these could be handled. Regardless, there isn't enough connected cars on the road today for this to become a reality anytime soon.
Feel free to opine in the comments!