N.H. Legislation Would Add Fee for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

  • An Electric Car charging station on Crafts Ave. in Northamtpon

  • Power supply for electric car charging. Electric car charging station. Close up of the power supply plugged into an electric car being charged.

Concord Monitor
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

More efficient vehicles would pay a sliding fee to compensate for paying less gas tax under a bill going through the Legislature, which would start adding the penalty to vehicles getting as little as 21 mpg.

The bill passed the House floor, 194-143, last Thursday and now is being considered by the House Finance Committee. Fees would be highest for the most-fuel efficient vehicles, as the bill establishes a variable charge as high as $111 for electric vehicles, down to zero for vehicles that get less than 20 mpg.

It differs from laws in many other states that place a flat fee on all electric or hybrid vehicles.

A separate bill before the House Public Works and Highways Committee would do just that, adding $100 to the annual registration fee for all hybrid vehicles and $200 to all electric vehicles.

The motivation behind the various pieces of legislation is concern about how to pay to maintain roads and highways. For decades, road-repair money in New Hampshire and elsewhere has largely come from state and federal gasoline taxes, on top of fixed registration fees.

This means that the more a vehicle drives, the more its owner pays in gas tax, acting as a proxy for how much wear they caused on the roads.

The arrival of efficient vehicles using less gasoline — and now electric cars that use no gasoline at all — has upended this calculation, prompting the state to find new ways to bring road upkeep money in line with drivers’ road usage.

Opponents of such extra payments say they penalize vehicle owners who do less damage to the environment while rewarding the owners of inefficient, more-polluting vehicles.

The $111 figure in House Bill 1763 is the calculated amount that a 20-mpg vehicle would pay into the fund used to maintain New Hampshire highways if it drove 10,000 miles in a year. This charge would be paid on top of annual vehicle registration and kept in a separate fund for highway upkeep.

The amount paid by a vehicle would depend on its EPA-rated mileage. Vehicles that get better than 20 mpg would pay a small portion of the $111 figure, while vehicles with higher mileage would pay a larger portion, up to the full $111 charge for electric vehicles.

Details of what the specific charges may be are not included in the bill as it is written.

The bill says implementing the program would cost an estimated $330,000, partly for equipment to connect local registrars’ offices with official EPA mpg ratings.