UC Davis Proposes Mileage-Based Road-Funding Fee For EVs

JAN 7 2019 BY MARK KANE 96

Government remembers that EVs needs to be charged…

The University of California Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies analyses the topic of road maintenance-funding in the dawn of the electric car era.

As the zero-emission car share increases, gas tax income for road repairs will be dwindling. To maintain the roads and ensure EVs pay their fair share, UC Davis proposes a per-mile fee for zero-emission cars (all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell), while the other types still would pay the gas tax.

On the other hand, UC Davis doesn’t support the easy way (short term) in the form of an extra registration fee for electric vehicles, which is not a sustainable or effective solution over the long-term.

The per-mile road charge is probably inevitable. According to UC Davis, it will be a relatively low-cost, easy to administer and sustainable solution.

More in press release and in the report:

How to Fund Roads and Ensure Electric Vehicles Pay Their Share

A Mileage Fee, Gas Tax or Both?

Since electric vehicles use no gasoline, their drivers pay no gasoline tax. And as more people drive EVs, gas-tax revenue for road repairs is dwindling. So how can California and the rest of the country avoid road-funding shortfalls and ensure that EV drivers pay their share of needed repairs?

A research report submitted to the California Legislature this week by the University of California, Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies proposes an innovative solution: Switch EVs to a mileage fee while continuing to have gasoline-powered cars pay gasoline taxes.
Gas tax or mileage fee?

Many states, including California, have opted for the easy way out — charging an extra registration fee for electric vehicles. But that is not a sustainable or effective solution, according to report author Alan Jenn, a UC Davis research scientist with the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center.

“The California zero-emissions vehicle registration fee doesn’t support the long-run funding of transportation infrastructure, nor is it equitable for drivers of electric and hydrogen vehicles,” said Jenn.

Others argue that the gas tax must be replaced by a mileage-based fee as soon as possible to avert increasing shortfalls in road funding. But switching from the gas tax to a mileage fee would be technically and administratively difficult.

“California now has the opportunity to support alternative funding mechanisms,” Jenn said. “Our study finds that a per-mile road charge, designed specifically for zero-emission vehicles, is a relatively low-cost and sustainable solution to funding our roads.”

The proposed transition is expected to cost less, be easier to administer and provide a smooth transition away from gas taxes. The report concluded that a mileage-based user charge would be the easiest and least costly way of addressing the long-term decline of gas taxes.

The report, “Assessing Alternatives to California’s Electric Vehicle Registration Fee,” was requested by the California Legislature.

Report: Assessing Alternatives to California’s Electric Vehicle Registration Fee

Source: University of California, Davis via Green Car Congress

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96 Comments on "UC Davis Proposes Mileage-Based Road-Funding Fee For EVs"

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Ron Swanson's Mustache

The thought of the state instituting what would presumably be a GPS-based mileage tracking system is super creepy and rife for exploitation and hacking, possibly leading to breaches of significant PII.

The better solution would be to simply roll any such need for road funding into a fee that gets tacked on to the utility bill of any EV owner.

I have $150 tacked on to my annual tabs.

I am good with that thanks.

Does anyone know how much the average person pays in gas tax a year? I don’t mind an annual fee added to registration just as long as it is not more than the average gas tax.

I only pay $55 a year in registration

GPS is totally unnecessary. Just have the owner report the odometer reading every year, with the phrase “I declare under penalty of perjury this is correct.”, just like we do for auto insurance. The DMV can have random odometer audits (drive to a DMV center so they just look) to enforce it, just like the IRS. Then have a “road use” in proportion to the number of miles driven the previous year.

What if you know it’s not correct? What if the odometer is broken and you don’t know how far you went. When people do lie about it, how are they caught?

Auto insurance will get on your case for that long before the DMV gets the chance. My auto insurance is 5 times my DMV registration fee.

Problem with owner reporting is they won’t. Then the only time it gets corrected is when the vehicle is sold as an odometer reading is required for the transaction. Who gets stuck with the fee? New buyer? Probably. IMHO better to tack on a average cost per mile. True it’s not “fair” as high mileage drivers will pay less and low mileage drivers will pay more.
Looking at the amount of people who won’t pay license plate tolls suggests owner reporting won’t work.

Odometer reporting would become a mandatory part of yearly vehicle registration.

And why not lie? If no one is checking I bet people will under report especially when there is a financial incentive to “drive” as little as possible.

Because auto insurance has 5 times the motivation to crack down on that kind of deception than the DMV does. Do you lie to your auto insurance about your mileage?

When you get pulled over, the officer will ask for license, registration, and odometer position. If you reported 1,000 miles per year and you passed 50,000 in a month since the last registration they will send you a bill. It can also be part of the smog test report. And the owner has to report the odometer position when selling the car. The buyer should make sure the seller filled out the for, correctly.

What smog test?

In California we have to do a smog test every two years

No smog test for BEVs

Update odometer technology to make them more tamper-resistant and readable with NFC technology. A randomly selected fraction of vehicles going for tag renewal will be checked by someone simply walking by the car.

Every weigh station would record & report the odometer reading for trucks.

Similarly, at every traffic stop an officers service cell-phone would automatically record the odometer of the sopped vehicle — that number would be recorded on the ticket & reported to the relevant stakeholders — insurance, tax assessor, etc.

Auto insurance requires my mileage every year and bills me 5 times as much as the DMV, so auto insurance has 5 times the motivation to crack down on that kind of deception.

I’ve never been asked to restate my mileage to my insurance after initial signup. And they charge me 10x, if that mattered. They only ask if you sign up for the low mileage discount and there is no requirement to prove anything. They don’t care about 10,000 or 15,000 miles on regular policies, if you are driving 40,000 miles a year, most likely it is for work and that is their loophole for denying coverage, commercial use requires a different policy.

If you commute 75 miles one way to work (which isn’t “commercial use”), you will EASILY put over 40,000 miles per year on your car. In the ridiculous housing market of the Bay Area, 75 miles one way isn’t even particularly exceptional. I know multiple people who make that commute (or even farther).

I’ve had both AAA and State Farm, and yes they do care about 10k vs 15k, etc. They both required mileage of me, every year.

Evidence: “The Auto Club’s verified mileage program is available to insured drivers who agree to report their odometer readings at the beginning and end of each policy period…”

AAA had me report mileage or else my premium is higher. Evidence: “The Auto Club’s verified mileage program is available to insured drivers who agree to report their odometer readings at the beginning and end of each policy period…”

“The DMV can have random odometer audits”

Such audits already exist (for gas vehicles) via smog check. just enforce same schedule for EVs (except one just shows up at the station to show odometer to the specialist who would certify the odometer reading and device working order).

In fact, in many countries technical inspections are already mandated (not necessarily related to smog check). It’s just US is perhaps the most liberal in that regard. Just throw the odometer reporting into already existing mandatory tech inspections.

As for hacks, odometer hacking is already against the law, and people already have as much, if not more, to gain from it when selling the vehicle. However, even for the purposes of significant one-time gain, i haven’t heard that odometer cheating is epidemic these days. I wouldn’t expect it to be that much different with the per-mile road fee either.

For those who never heard of auto insurance using reported mileage to calculate premium, AAA required it of me under this program:
“The Auto Club’s verified mileage program is available to insured drivers who agree to report their odometer readings at the beginning and end of each policy period…”

Mileage-Based road-funding fees should be charged to ALL vehicles, not just ZEVs.

Gee, Mileage is a Great way to give a DISCOUNT to the biggest Polluting SUVs!
Did the Koch’s fund this “study”.

Just raise the gas tax and don’t add another government bureaucracy till EV’s are 10% of the auto population.

The tax should match the purpose. Tax to pay for road repairs should match the usage of the road. Tax to offset the damage to the environment should match the damage done to the environment. All car owners should pay a tax based on mileage and weight of the car. All fuel that is burned should have a carbon tax, whether the fuel is burned in a car or in a power plant.

as long as you multiply it by a factor for the mass of a vehicle. The more mass a vehicle has, the greater the damage to road surfaces it causes.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

It’s not linear, of course. And it’s based on axle weights, rather than vehicle weight, relative to the load-bearing capacity of the road.

if you went by road damage, semis would pay it all. One 80,000lb truck damages the road as much as 10,000 cars.

Of course, there’s more to road maintenance than just repairing road damage, so other users should pay too, not just the semis. You could divide road costs in different categories and charge for each category differently, but that feels needlessly complicated. A linear relationship between vehicle weight and cost per mile seems like a reasonable approximation.

Charge everyone by the mile with a weighting based on MPG (or MPGe for EVs) to properly account for the size of a vehicle and its proportional effect on roadways.

They should tax carbon until we don’t emit more than we take out of the atmosphere. Then we can start to tax driving EVs if that somehow isn’t enough to fix roads.

No ‘additional hardware’ is needed for the Road User Charge (RUC). You don’t need to track people’s mileage on a daily basis (and most people wouldn’t put up with that anyways). Just check the mileage when you register the car each year and charge the RUC at that time.

Do that, and in several months the grey market will be flooded with devices hacking the “odomoter” of each model vehicle. I remember reading the suggested secure way to do it is to have an embedded and sealed IRS approved device recording the vehicle movements through GPS.

That is a felony.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Only if you get caught……

Which is actually true for EVERY law.

@Fool Cells, it is correct this is a felony (in most states), but by tying the tax base to it, we create a multi-thousand dollar incentive to commit it. At the same time there are little to no means of catching it. In such situations the bad side of the human nature usually prevails, e.g. everyone starts speeding if it is known police can’t catch you.

I have to report my annual mileage to my auto insurance under penalty of perjury. Auto insurance is more expensive than the DMV fees, so the motivation to deceive insurance is even greater. Are you saying this sort of deception is already going on? If yes, can you cite evidence?

@DrDauger, how much will your insurance drop if you report say 2,000 miles instead of 12,000 miles driven? It only affects their estimate of the present car value and I bet you’d at most be able to save 10-20$ per year, if that.

Here in US, for a typical car driven, fuel taxes are in the hundreds ($200-300 and more) per year, well worth the trouble for some. In some other countries, they can be in the vicinity of thousands per year, and for them this would be even bigger issue.

If you have a car that you drive less than 200 miles/month, it will definitely affect the cost of your insurance. You’re barely even on the road.

People have had multiple incentives to falsify odometer readings for almost as long as cars have existed. This is a non-issue.

Nope you’re wrong. I have real-world data. On December 30, 2018, I bought a new car, but I haven’t yet sold my old one. When I reported last week to my auto insurance that my old car’s annual mileage will now be virtually zero, they dropped my rates on the old one by several $100s per year. The drop is more than my entire annual DMV registration for that older car.

Because you got a low-mileage discount common for all. A weekend car has always gotten discounts. I have not heard of a pay-by-the-mile insurance program. What company? Maybe you can cite some evidence?

Call up your auto insurance company and tell them you will be driving twice as many miles per year. See what happens to your rates.

Also, pay-by-mile insurance has been around for a while. The first google result for “pay by mile auto insurance” is metromile.com.

I used both AAA and State Farm and every year they each required my mileage. AAA had me fill out a form every year with my mileage, which they used to calculate my premium. Calling it a “discount” is a euphemism because if you don’t you’re charged more. Evidence:
“The Auto Club’s verified mileage program is available to insured drivers who agree to report their odometer readings at the beginning and end of each policy period…”

Also, you failed to cite evidence.

People have had a large financial incentive to reduce odometer mileage since the invention of used car sales and this has never been a serious issue. And that was back when 99% of odometers were simply mechanical.

IT should be based on Mileage and WEIGHT.
Because Heavy Vehicles do all the damage.

Income should also be taken into account. Billionaires like Elon can afford to pay a much higher mileage tax than the rest of us.

I was looking at a report on the UK future taxation of vehicles, which as you all now is astronomical (65% taxation/gallon)

The 2017 Wolfson Economics Prize. This report was contributed to by the RAC Foundation.

Under this proposal both Fuel Duty and VED (road tax) would be abolished. Instead there would be a single per-mile charge,

the rate of which would depend on a vehicle’s weight (hence taking into account the damage it does to the road) and its tailpipe emissions. The lighter and cleaner a vehicle is, the lower the per mile charge. The heavier and dirtier the vehicle is, the higher the per mile charge.

Wouldn’t this need to be enacted on a multi-state basis? I suspect there would be a legal challenge raised that many of the miles had been incurred on cross-country travel, upon which gas taxes had been paid in other states.
For ICE vehicles, rebates for out of state travel could be based on gasoline receipts – keeping the receipts would be a pain in the neck for most people, and there could be brisk trade in gasoline receipts from relatives living in other states.

The states would have to be on board with this since many of them have gas taxes too.

The danger here is everyone flocking to register their cars to the state with the cheapest per-mile state gas taxes regardless of residency/where they spend their time. I feel like this is happening in my state now, I see lots of Texas plates with frames from local dealerships – why are all these people who purportedly live in Texas buying cars from local dealerships? And commuting on my roads?

This is inevitable, but I think they will go with the path of least resistance which is a registration fee. Here in GA, we already have a flat $200 yearly fee and I fear it’s a matter of time for other states to follow. My biggest concern is that this fee is determined at state level and thus can be revised much more easily than the federal gasoline tax which for mostly political reasons is very hard to budge. Politically, EV owners are yet an insignificant minority and it will be much easier to goose a little more from them than from the ICE majority.

Exactly what this California cynic was thinking. Easier for them to raise taxes when it is in the state’s hand. And they will do it.

It’s a beautiful way to raise taxes. All they simply need to do is to charge EVs much more per mile than gas cars like in GA with the flat annual road tax and as gas cars get slowly replaced with EVs more and more revenue will roll in.

I think the reason the GA EV registration fee is higher than the state fuel tax paid by an ICE is that the fee covers the shortfall in Federal road funds from EVs. The allocation of federal road funds paid to each state is based on the amount of federal fuel tax that the state collects at the pump. Since EVs don’t pay any federal fuel tax, states with a larger than average percentage of EVs will get shortchanged on their fair share of Federal road funds disbursed be the federal government.

replied to wrong post. sorry.

If it is done by mileage, I fear that many EVs will suddenly develop defective odometers!

This is such a tough nut to crack. Mileage is the only real and fair indication of use, but administration will be so difficult and costly that flat fees will inevitably be implemented instead.

Unfortunate for the little old ladies only driving to church on sundays.

The vehicle software could cross check the odometer reading against GPS distance readings to detect tampering.

The idea that everyone will suddenly hack their odometer after a mileage fee law takes effect is not sound. Just because a few people might try to game the system, doesn’t mean everyone necessarily will. It’s a specious argument used in many other scenarios, such as with welfare. In the case of welfare the argument is everyone on it will just buy drugs and junk food with the money, when in reality most people use it to support themselves and their family with basic necessities. The vast majority of EV owners will pay the mileage fee.

Everyone benefits from the existence of roads whether the they drive or not. It would be simpler just to maintain the road network out of general revenues. But this would likely generate a political firestorm. Some states, I believe even raid the gas tax revenues for general purposes anyhow. But if EVs are to pay a road tax it should be distance based and not a registration fee. The latter would punish those who drive less.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

It would be very simple to use general taxation. But it would be a regressive cross-subsidy to heavier road users from those who make little use of them.

The previous respondent was stating money was being moved in the opposite direction – funds from gas taxes (earmarked for Highway Maintenance) are being tapped for other purposes.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

Fee(Current_Date,VIN) = ( Odometer(Current_Date) – Odometer(Previous_Payment_Date) ) x Per_Mile_Fee(VIN)

Oh yeah, that’s like, super-duper complicated.

It’s never going to be perfect. Just keep it simple and figure out ways to catch and hammer the fraudsters. Might need to tighten up conditions on odometers somewhat, but odometers are at least already regulated.

I think the solution to the odometer problem is to have a proactive system where each vehicle is charged a default amount of miles unless the user proactively provides a certified mileage. Also the Per_Mile_Fee(VIN) function above should track the efficiency of the vehicle in addition to the weight. It would create a natural tilt towards EV adoption. The system that I worked out would operate as follows: 1. The transportation funding pool would be set by the current pool + inflation. So funding would not decrease from year to year. 2. ICE would be charged fees based on gallons of gas, just as they are now. 3. EVs would be charged on combined MPGe equivalents for the annual mileage for a default of 25000 miles per year. I have a Fiat 500e, whose combined MPGe is 116. So the equivalent number of gallons is 25000/116 = 215 gallons. The fee would be the tax on the 215 “gallons”. The efficiency comes in because while the MPGe of the Fiat 500e is 116, the combined MPG of the corresponding ICE is 30 MPG. 4. Each year the tax rate is set to match so that the funding pool is satisfied.… Read more »
Two sides from today’s Journal: ———————————————————————————————— LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Are Electric Cars Worth the Taxpayer Charge? Your Dec. 31 editorial “The Electric Kool-Aid Subsidy Test” was precisely right as far as it went. Unfortunately for taxpayers, the regressive redistribution around electric vehicles doesn’t end with the subsidy. Yes, the $7,500 tax credit is one “geographic wealth transfer, benefiting mainly wealthy coastal havens.” But another is the way electric vehicles drain the federal Highway Trust Fund, because EV owners pay little in the way of gas taxes. The HTF will be in the red in the next few years as gas-tax revenue dwindles, in part because of federal mandates on fuel efficiency that cause drivers to purchase less gas. A fair and effective tax system would not spend billions subsidizing alternative vehicles whose wealthy owners pay little or no gas tax but still use public highways. The government subsidizes EV purchases up to $7,500 at the same time we put federal excise taxes on the purchase of other vehicles whose owners are already paying into the HTF through fuel taxes. Repealing the tax credit for electric cars would be a first step toward restoring fairness, but there also should be… Read more »

Yup all those filthy rich Leaf and Bolt owners…

Why not tax the fuel as in electricity, that would be the most equitable. If you have a residential account and use above a certain amount you get an additional tax on that electricity commensurate with CA tax on fuels 2.25%. Any taxes thus collected go into the fund.
So say you pay $100 a month on average to fuel your ev. over your normal electricity usage averaged out from 10 years before, moving does not matter, as it based on the residence, then you pay 2.25% extra a month, on average.

Only way to do that would be to separately meter vehicle charging usage everywhere, which would be impossible from a logistics and enforcement perspective. Not to mention solar home changing would be untraceable.

Any provider would have to pay the additional charge, which they would pass to the consumer.
True about solar panels you would pay no tax.

Do Not Read Between The Lines

If you drive 15000 miles per year and it’s all home charged, at 3mi/kWh it’d require 5,000kWh/year or 417kWh/month. For people that do heavy electricity heating or cooling, 417kWh/month is only a small fraction.

And we’ve been here with fuel taxes.

We need to get away from taxing fuel to pay for roads.

Exactly, I only drive 5,000 miles and I don’t pay for electricity. I generate enough solar power to offset my electricity bill.

Electricity is already taxed with sales tax. The real problem is at home there’s no difference between the electricity charging the car and the electricity powering the rest of the house. There’s no easy or fair way for only charging for the electricity used to charge the car.


Careful. That is most certainly not true in 50 states.

This sort of system could be easily implemented by self-reporting the odometer reading when you renew your vehicle. Couple with this fines for false reporting and occasional spot checks (such as when servicing the vehicle or during traffic stops), and it would fairly easy to administer.

Then you’ve got the PHEV problem. Are they gas or electric? Of course it depends on how they are driven and used. To hit them with a flat fee punishes those who also pay gas taxes but not to charge them a fee let’s many who drive mostly in EV mode get off without paying their share.

The solution is for California to implement an annual vehicle inspection, as many other states do. At that time the PHEV and EV vehicles are assessed a mileage fee, whereby the PHEVs are based only on the EV miles driven. ICE vehicles only pay the normal registration renew fee, since they are already contributing gas taxes. The inspection could also be used to check over the normal safety and emission items as other states do.

annual Inspection is corporate welfare scam produced by the state to keep some inspection shops open to scam working people.

Well – that is a bit harsh. Lots of things are corporate welfare scam. But annual inspection at least has a real definable purpose.

Transportation of goods and services is far more impactful than private transportation.
Just tax commercial vehicles and the results will then drip down onto purchasers of those goods and services. The hardware is already in place and this may even incentivise local production.

Had to laugh at title. It makes too much sense. Now, get out there and make it happen 😉

In black top States, the heat from an ICE tends to buckle the roads in the summer. Oil drips also play a roll in decomposing these roads. Those two factors do not exist in EVs, thus they should be assessed a lower rate.

Volt#671 + BoltEV + Model 3

EVs have to pay for roads, make sure the funds go into ROADS.

New Zealand has “Road User Charges” (RUC) that is applied to vehicles that don’t use petrol and is a distance based fee. Diesel is not taxed at pump so is covered by RUC as are any other non-taxed fuels (non-petrol). EVs automatically require RUC payment Except the NZ govt has waived the charges until about 2021 ish (our only EV perk). RUC are bought in advance, are KM based and can be bought in bulk in different amounts. I’ve never paid for RUC before but will need to get used to it and if it is at the current diesel rate then my Leaf will go from about 4c/km to about 11c/km. Then will need to look at solar cells to offset RUC.

To encourage EVs, give them a 50% mileage credit. IE. they pay for only 50% of their mileage.

Are the fire departments funded by taxes based on how much your house burns? Are schools funded by taxes based on how kids you have? Are Prisons funded by taxes based on how often you go to jail? Why are we even talking about this? Paying for roads with gas taxes doesn’t work worth a damn. People want the roads fixed, but no one wants to increase the gas tax. Now we’re talking about something even more invasive and soon to be hated? An additional sales tax makes much more sense to me.

Now don’t start introducing logic….
Carbon tax – hits most people a little.

Attempt by Exxon to ward off lawsuit by MA fails:

This lawsuit claims damage due to climate change caused by fossil fuel burning.
Exxon tried to quash it by claiming no jurisdiction as they are incorporated in TX and NJ. (two wonderful states if you’re a great polluter)
This argument has been vacated since MA says that 300 gas stations received monies in the form of advertisements to sell Exxon products. A nice precedent could be set here.
I bring this up because in environmental damage terms, ice are much more damaging, and that should be a consideration in terms of how much different types of vehicles are taxed.

Here’s my idea. All states must implement at the same time and at the same rate, but a tax based on how much ‘damage’ each vehicle does. Semis would pay a lot, scooters would be almost free (though two-stroke scooters would be a lot more due to environmental damage). Each year you setting up with the DMV when you renew your plates. They know the year, make and model of your vehicle, and tax accordingly. If you don’t, you get fined when you get pulled over and the cop checks your odometer, or if you never get pulled over, you still have to settle up when selling or scrapping the car.

Still some loopholes, but that’s the only reasonable way I’ve figured out to do it most easily and universally.

They should have a cap in mileage at 15k. Some people jobs depends on traveling a lot and some don’t l. This can be very regressive

And illogical. The whole regressive argument is why we can’t raise the gas tax to reasonable levels.
Guess what – driving that much damages roads and the environment and should be discouraged. Rural and exurb housing will fall in value — as it should. You can’t be picking people you know or like or feel bad for and making an exception.

Only way to be fair is have everyone pay the same usage (pay-as-you-go) tax.

Just have the manufacturer report it.

I’d rather see a tax based on weight (GVWR) & mileage. So for example, there are categories of vehicle weight:

Class A: under 1500 lbs (e.g. 2 or 3-wheel vehicles)
Class B: 1500-3000 lbs (e.g. Civic)
Class C: 3000-4500 lbs (e.g. Model 3)
Class D: 4500-6000 lbs (e.g. 3 Series)
Class E: 6000-7500 lbs (e.g. Grand Cherokee)
Class F: 7500-10000 lbs (e.g. F-450)
Class G: over 10000 lbs (commercial vehicles)

…then for each of those classes, there is a multiplier for miles driven.

Tax tires instead. It would be cheap and easy to administer, and correlates with mileage driven and vehicle weight.

In many states you are required to get a smog check annually. Why not just add a mileage tracking device to ALL vehicles and have it read by the same establishments? That way, they keep their jobs as we transition to electric vehicles. They just do less and less smog checks and more and more mileage checks. The charge should also be based on vehicle weight, since this impacts road wear. Should be a function of weight and mileage. I think the computer security guys could figure out how to make a system that is very difficult to hack, and it would be a sealed unit with a hefty fine for breaking the seal.