US drivers are using less fossil fuel, a trend that’s certain to continue, as fuel-economy standards get stricter and plug-in sales grow. That’s a good thing. However, road maintenance is funded by gas taxes, and less fuel burned means less tax revenue. That’s a bad thing.
“Fuel efficiency is getting better and better, which is great,” said Michelle Godfrey, an Oregon Department of Transportation spokeswoman. But “when your road maintenance is funded by fuel sales, that spells trouble.”
Several states, concerned about falling gas-tax revenues, have enacted or proposed special taxes or fees on EVs (we’re sure they’re not doing it just to discourage EV sales). Oregon, however has come up with a more comprehensive approach.
The pilot program, which will begin in July with up to 5,000 registered vehicle owners, will charge drivers a flat 1.5 cents per mile driven. The Oregon DOT has teamed with Sanef ITS Technologies and Intelligent Mechatronic Systems to implement the system.
A device that plugs into a vehicle’s on-board diagnostics port (OBD II) will gather mileage data. Drivers will still pay the gas tax at the pump, but at the end of each month, the mileage data will be compared to what the driver paid in gas taxes, and participants will receive a rebate or an invoice for the difference.
Oregon already conducted a smaller pilot of the program in 2012 and 2013. This is North America’s first execution of a mileage-based road tax, according to the state DOT. However, at least 10 other states, including Florida, are considering similar programs, according to Intelligent Mechatronic Systems.
“To improve and maintain America’s roadway infrastructure, the transition from a gas tax to a distance-based road usage charge solution is a critical evolution,” said Sanef ITS president François Gauthey. “Creating a sustainable but fair system for collecting revenues is essential for future sustainability of critical transportation networks.”