SEATTLE -- Washington state lawmakers are considering a proposal to charge hybrid vehicle owners a $75 fee each year.
The bill would also add $25 to the fee for electric vehicles owners, who just started paying a $100 fee per car this year.
As cars become more fuel efficient, some feel the new fees are needed to help maintain roads and make up for the fact that those drivers are paying little to no money in gas tax.
But Justin Holmerud, who started driving a Toyota Prius three years ago, opposes the $75 fee. He exchanged his Ford Mustang for a hybrid because he only needs to fill the tank once a month, at a cost of about $30 to $35.
“That kind of throws out the logic of why I bought it in the first place,” he said. “It’s definitely going to hit me in the pocket a little bit.”
The argument for the hybrid fee is that fuel-efficient cars use the roads, too, so they should pay their fair share. That is why the state started imposing an annual $100 fee for electric vehicles, which pay no gas tax.
The fact that some lawmakers are already considering a $25 hike to that fee does not sit well with Jeff Finn, who is with the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association.
“That just doesn’t seem right,” Finn said.
He owns two electric cars, which are charged by solar panels on his house. Even though he only drives one of those cars about 3,000 miles a year, he pays just as much as a car that drives 10,000 miles.
Finn would rather see a system like the one Oregon is testing for highly efficient vehicles. That idea would use technology to charge people for every mile they drive on public roads.
“Even if it was more than $100, that’s OK because I get to choose how much I want to drive the car,” Finn said.
State senators held a public hearing on the bill last week. Only two people testified – one in favor and one against. The opponent, Ryan Spiller with the Auto Alliance, argued it was not fair that larger hybrids, which are not as fuel efficient as some regular cars, would still have to pay the fee.
Virginia lawmakers passed a $100 hybrid fee this year, prompting thousands to sign an online petition urging the governor to veto that fee.
The Washington bill also features other fee hikes. It would raise the fee for an enhanced drivers’ license from $15 to $55 to help cover the high cost of processing those licenses. It would also impose a new $15 fee for vehicles with studded tires.
The bill has not yet been approved by the Senate Transportation Committee.