Proposed Electric Vehicle Fee Stirs Resentment Among Oklahoma Owners

Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger in his 2013 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger in his 2013 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car.

A bill passed by the state House of Representatives Wednesday would impose an annual fee on owners of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles in Oklahoma, and that’s leaving some electric car owners feeling singled out.

A gray 2013 Nissan Leaf sits in Edmond resident Jonathon Stranger’s driveway.

“There’s no gas. There’s no motor oil,” Stranger says. “It’s the future.”

The Oklahoma House voted 51-44 to approve HB 1449, legislation that would charge Stranger a $100 fee when he renews his Leaf’s annual vehicle registration. For plug-in hybrid owners, like the plug-in Toyota Prius or Chevy Volt, the fee would be $30 a year. The measure is now pending in the Senate.

“My feeling on it is, obviously, we know the State of Oklahoma is tied to oil and gas,” Stranger says. “So it’s almost like: Our state makes blue shirts, and I decided to wear a green shirt so I’m getting fined.”

Stranger owns several restaurants in Oklahoma City and is doing well financially. For him, it’s not the amount of the fee, but the principal behind it. Able Blakley, owner of Savory Spice Shop in Oklahoma City, feels the same way.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he says. “It really is.”

Blakley has lived all over the country, in states where he says residents are incentivized to use alternative energy.

“To come home, where I grew up, and then buy an electric vehicle to try to do something positive, and then hear that a friend of yours wrote a bill that’s trying to detract from that — it’s a real bummer,” Blakley says.

Sen. Stephanie Bice, R- Oklahoma City, co-authored the legislation. She did not respond to interview requests, but in a Twitter exchange with Blakely, she defended the measure.

State Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, made a similar argument on the House floor Wednesday, and also noted that electric vehicle owners receive a big federal rebate.

The proposed fee would be collected in lieu of the tax most Oklahoma motorists  pay when they put gasoline or diesel in their tanks — revenue that goes toward the state’s transportation infrastructure.

“Right now if you go buy an electric car you get a $7,500 rebate, and you don’t have to pay into the infrastructure system that you’re taking space up and tearing — the wear and tear on these roads,” Roberts said.

Currently, 10 states levy fees or taxes on electric vehicles. The Oklahoma bill originally set the fee at $150, which would’ve been the second highest in the nation. An amendment reduced the fee to $100, which should help appease the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

Eric Pollard, ACOG’s Clean Cities Coordinator, says using electricity produced in Oklahoma helps reduce reliance on foreign oil.

“Electricity, in ACOG’s view, to power vehicles, is part of our region’s effort in advancing energy independence,” Pollard says.

Electric vehicle owner Able Blakley in his Oklahoma City spice shop.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Electric vehicle owner Able Blakley in his Oklahoma City spice shop.

Most states don’t impose any extra fees on electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles. There simply aren’t many electric cars on the road yet. In Oklahoma, there’s about 1 electric car for every 5,000 gas-powered ones, according to 2014 numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Pollard is concerned that a new fee could put an unfair burden on EV drivers.

“If you’re paying more on utility bills to power your vehicles, you’re also paying additional sales taxes on that, and some of that does go back to roads in our local communities,” Pollard says.

Back at Savory Spice Shop, Able Blakley says he isn’t paying a gas tax, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t paying his fair share.

“I would also be interested to see where the tax I pay on electricity goes, because that’s the fuel that we put in those,” Blakley says. “I plug it into my house, it comes off the grid, pay OG&E every month. I am paying a tax on my fuel, it’s just not the same one.”

And people who own plug-in hybrids, which use both electricity and gas, would pay a new $30 fee, in addition to the gas taxes they already pay, which critics of the bill see as a double tax.


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Comments

  • Kurt Gwartney

    I bought a used Nissan Leaf, so I did not receive any tax break on my vehicle purchase. It was purchased as a new vehicle outside of Oklahoma. I wish you would have mentioned the affect on second owners, though I might be the only one in the state.

    • Logan Layden

      Good point, Kurt! And second owners would probably be hurt more by the fees than those who could afford brand new all-electric and plug-in hybrids. A follow-up may be necessary as the bill continues to advance.

  • loggy5

    Gasoline tax is a antiquated way of funding road maintenance. Budget shortfalls are largely due to more fuel efficient gas vehicles but this bill unfairly singles out electric vehicle drivers. A fair system would be to tax drivers based on actual mileage driven and curb weight. Then everyone would pay their fair share.

    • Amanda Ham

      HA! since when are the taxes in Oklahoma “fair”? This article was spot on especially about the paying taxes for your electricity, which can be quite high, And the “build roads and bridges” argument… well… we have been sold that one so many times that surely we ain’t buying it… well… except if your a legislator.

  • Don Francis

    The State of Georgia imposed a punitive Annual Alternative Fuel Vehicle Fee, which only applies to plug-in electric vehicles. Currently the fee is $204.20 (indexed annually) and makes PEV drivers the highest taxed per mile in the state. The attached chart shows just how “unfair” this fee is compared to the other vehicles paying their “fair share” highway user taxes at the pump. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f21ede3a2df8bbc51404745368693e8314004c19da6168844c7b9260ecca86a.png

  • Chris Powell

    Revenue raising measures require a 3/4ths supermajority to be passed, but under rules adopted this year by the new leadership in the state House the authority to decide if something is a revenue raising measure belongs to the Majority Floor Leader, Jon Echols. He declared that HB1449 is not a revenue raising measure, and an attempt to challenge his decision was voted down.
    This thing will have to become law before anyone has the legal standing to challenge it, but it almost certainly would be struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

  • Zen Dadio

    Tax the person behind the tree, that turns out to be me and not you? Gasoline tax needs to be raised! Lowest gasoline tax in the country and the proof are the bridges and roads we drive on today. Gutless politicians are the trade of the day. Taxes and guns make these politicians turn and run from the hard decisions needed. No problem for $30 fee if gas tax gets raised a similar amount per driver. That is how you build things.

  • Nathan Palmer

    Many of the electric vehicles on the road DID NOT collect the federal tax credit. This is because they are either leased vehicles, or used vehicles. The drivers of these vehicles ARE paying tax on the use of their fuel, it is simply shifted from the fuel pump to the electric company. The high cost of tags and registration in Oklahoma has already resulted in many people changing the registration of their tags over to tribal tags, which has been very costly to the state. This measure will only encourage more to do so, which will cost the state more in revenue than will be raised by this bill.

  • Peety Opossium

    Does OK place a tax charge or fuel fee for natural gas? How much damage do these electric cars cause right now? How many are there? How much do they weigh? Seems like a very minor sub-population of users. Volt 3,500 ibs, Leaf 3,300 ibs. Ford F150 pickup range from 4,000- 5,000 lbs and likely cause more damage than these cars. Lastly, how was this fee calculated? Is there an avg driving distance for OK drivers? Many many problems with fairness on this bill

  • Theo A

    This is a new Tax.

    Call it what it is. An electric vehicle Tax.

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