California considers an EV mileage fee to support road infrastructure

Traditionally, funding to maintain road and highway infrastructure comes from a gasoline tax, which means drivers of ICE vehicles contribute to the fund in proportion to how much they drive. However, the rise of EVs could cause receipts from gas taxes to dwindle.

California, the state with the highest level of EV adoption (and the most losses in gas tax revenue), currently addresses this issue with an annual $100 EV registration fee that goes towards maintaining roads. However, a new research report indicates that this approach is both unsustainable and inequitable.

“The registration fee is not a sustainable mechanism to provide adequate funding as California transitions towards ZEVs [zero emission vehicles],” states the report from the University of California, Davis’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “Additionally, the fee detracts from the market adoption of ZEV technologies by as much as a 20% decrease in new ZEV sales.”

The proposed solution? Instead of an annual EV fee, the report suggests implementing a road user charge, or RUC. In this model, drivers are charged a fee in proportion to how many miles they actually drive. In theory, the RUC could be applied to all vehicles. However, the report concludes that it would be most cost-effective to keep the gasoline tax for gas-powered vehicles, and impose the RUC only on EV drivers.

“Our analysis suggests that the best solution for creating a sustainable, robust funding system is an RUC program applied only to ZEVs (allowing the parallel gasoline tax to gradually atrophy and eventually disappear),” concludes the report.


Source: University of California, Davis via Green Car Congress


  • mipak

    Yeah what about the damage to the roads caused by caustic solutions from ICE cars dripping all over the highways from leaks? Diesel fuel & gasoline help disintegrate the paved roads by dissolving the tar components of pavement. And what about the fires under bridges which many times diesel trucks carrying flammables have erupted into flames and caused serious damages to over passes–sometimes collapsing them entirely. There has yet to be an electric transport that has done any damages to the roads like is done by ICE cars and trucks.

    What about the health of the drivers exposed to benzene in the fuels? what about the health of children exposed to benzene from ICE cars, the CO from cars causing suicide deaths (making it easy to do), the carbon out the tail gate causing global warming, etc, etc. There are a lot of hidden costs associated with ICE cars that do not have an equivalent with BEV cars and trucks!!

    There simply is no way to put a total cost of infrastructure and health on this so BEVs should NOT be taxed in order to encourage SANE living instead of the insanity of living with ICE vehicles. Yes, it’s insane to drive an ICE !!. There you have it in black and white.

    • Troy Frank

      You have a point, but at the same time, EV’s will start causing road damage once they’re more prevalent. Wait until the first electric semi starts on fire while on the road, or under a bridge. EV’s will likely still be a net-win for roads/bridges, but drivers will still try to go under a bridge that’s too low, no matter which kind of semi they’re driving.

      • mipak

        That is true too. So a lot of thought needs to go into it for fairness. But to encourage BEVs they should be taxed a bit less.

    • Dennis Worley

      The problem is how to get the rich to pay their share!

  • Ed

    The RUC is the best approach. All EV manufacturers will need to have a system that reports the mileage driven to the state on a monthly basis.

    • Kerry Carter

      The best approach? Really? Everyone should pay. Everything you buy used a road to end up yours even if you don’t drive and use the bus. It should be part of the sales tax. The more you buy the more you pay because again a road was involved in getting you what you want or need. Then keep the fuel tax to make people switch to BEV.

  • Knud P

    What about hybrids?
    Should they only pay per used gallon fuel or also RUC?

  • Richard111

    Another healthier alternative would be to increase the tax on fossil fuels, so that ICE cars make up the money needed for roads and other infrastructure, which at the same time would encourage ICE car owners to switch to BEVs.

  • Dan Snell

    Fee everyone the same way. Then everyone will realize just how much money they contribute to the road funds. Another option may be a fee on new tires. The heavier, more road damaging vehicles pay more.

  • Allan

    Why isn’t this a general solution instead of just EVs? Charge for road repairs based on combination of miles driven and vehicle weight.

    The weight of the vehicles is exponentially tied to road damage, and how much you utilize the vehicle is closely tied to the share of road damage in need of maintenance.

    The gas tax should be diverted to the above system, save for a reasonable amount that’s only dedicated toward smog and pollution cleanup/reduction programs, with no option for diverting to other funds, either use it for its purpose or refund it.

    The EV’s advantage here, by nature of the technology, is that recyling batteries will probably happen way beyond half a million miles of driving, but we should make sure the recyling process is well funded as well. Less mining, more recyling down the road.

  • daveman1

    RUC should be applied to all cars, and should include a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) component as well. Heavier cars should pay more, as they cause more wear on roads.

    Probably should also have an ICE fee component, as ICE related fluids and emissions cause damage to roadways

  • Gil Good

    It’s only fair that those of us driving electric pay our share for infrastructure.
    My idea is to use data from insurance companies. Every year, as I renew my auto insurance, I fill out a questionaire that asks my mileage, or how many miles I have driven in the previous year. Insurance companies could pass that info on to the state as the basis to charge ‘road tax’.

    • Dag Øystein Johansen

      Mileage alone however doesn’t say much about how much you actually wear the road down, or “how much road you’ve used up” in other words.

      In Norway trucking accounts for over 99% of road wear, and I doubt it is less in America (even though we don’t use concrete here — the only one ever built is being replaced with asphalt).

      The reason is that wear increases exponentially with axle load, not linearly. Ten times the load means hundreds of times more wear, and the effect is, according to the experts, large enough that the trucks, though far fewer in number, wear the roads much more than cars.

      We of course end up paying either way, but economics 101 says resources must be correctly priced to avoid under- or over-utilisation. Politicians however are very afraid of not getting re-elected, not of resources being used inefficiently.

  • Terry Robb

    Yes Troy Frank there will be EV fires like some of the Tesla batteries have done but they did not explode. Like the crashing truck on the Brookland bridge. Also there will be no fuel transports to cause huge crashes with fuel when there are no combustion engines. Yes the automakers need to end the combustion engine and complex transmissions we have the batteries and they will only improve

  • Dag Øystein Johansen

    Ah, road fees! Someone’s gotta pay for the road maintenance, and who better than those who use the road?

    Well I’ll tell you. Those who wear down the road actually ought to pay rather more than those who merely use it. A road after all may well live much more than a century, but it must be resurfaced every few years because of continual wear and tear.

    The Norwegian fact-checking website (factually) looked into road wear after politicians argued electric cars create more particulates because they are heavier, and that wears down the road more, hence they’re not so great for the air after all.

    It turns out that the argument was correct in one respect: heavier cars do wear the road more, and that creates more particulates (or floatdust as we call it!); however, it is an exponential relationship, not a linear one. Specifically, it’s axle load that affects wear, so having more axles and the same mass reduces wear.

    What this means is that, yes, in absolute terms a Tesla at 2300 kg does wear the road many percent more than a 2000 kg alternative car.

    But both are utterly irrelevant, because the heavy trucks and semitrailers have axle loads ten times as high as the Tesla. determined that commercial trucking accounts for over 99% of the road wear. Yet the construction and upkeep of the roads is financed almost exclusively by the private car users. Funny how that works.

  • Gil Good

    Insurance company data is the best source for info re how to assess electric car drivers for road use. Every year I have to inform my insurance company how many miles I have driven the previous year. This is how they assess the risk I impose as their insured. That mileage declaration could be uses as the basis for assessing a road tax for BEV drivers.