The bill would raise the vehicle registration fee from $140 to $300. Vehicle owners could instead opt to pay 2.5 cents per mile. Owners choosing the per-mile option would have to report their mileage annually to the Idaho Transportation Department.
Backers said the fee is needed so electric vehicle users pay their fair share for road upkeep that partially comes from gas taxes. Opponents say $300 overshoots the mark so far that it will discourage electric vehicle use.
“I'm concerned that $300 is outright punitive to a level that there’s no way anybody is going to drive an electric vehicle,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel. “Now we’re looking at an order of three to four times higher the amount they’re paying in registration fees than the amount they’re avoiding in gas tax.”
Republican Rep. Joe Palmer, chairman of the House Transportation and Defense Committee, sponsored the bill and said the $300 was based on the amount of gas tax paid by someone who drove 12,000 to 15,000 miles (19,000 to 24,000 kilometers) annually in a vehicle getting 20 miles per gallon (8.5 kilometers per liter).
The $300 registration fee is expected to bring an additional $300,000 to the state, meaning there are roughly 1,000 electric vehicles in Idaho. Electric vehicles are defined as vehicles powered only by a form of electricity.
Idaho has been working to improve its charging system for electric vehicles as the vehicles themselves continue to improve. Republican Gov. Brad Little in 2019 declared Feb. 14 Electric Vehicle Day.
Idaho Power, a public utility with customers in southern Idaho and eastern Oregon, responded in a tweet to an electric vehicle user shortly after the House committee vote. The company said electric vehicles are part of clean-energy solutions communities want.
“For years, Idaho Power has worked to expand EV adoption in the state," the company tweeted. "This proposal runs counter to those efforts and the efforts of many others.”