By Kelly Baughman
Alabama has adopted a new annual flat-rate registration and license fee for hybrid and electric car owners that has some green conscious Alabama residents seeing red. The new fees were part of the Rebuild Alabama legislation and has been endorsed by the Alabama House Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure Committee.
In addition to the 10-cent per gallon increase in the state’s gasoline and diesel tax hike, Alabama will now charge an annual $200 fee for electric vehicles and $100 for plug-in hybrids. The first $150 collected from the annual electric vehicle license fee and the first $75 from hybrids, will be divvied up this way: 66.67 percent to the state, 25 percent to counties and 8.33 percent to cities. The remainder will go to into a fund and be used to help fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure, such as charging stations.
And while most people won’t be affected by the change, those who serve as state environmental ambassadors are concerned that this will deter Alabama residents from purchasing fuel efficient hybrids and electric vehicles in the future.
Wesley Sherer, a Principal and Mechanical Engineer at HHB Engineers in Prattville, Alabama voiced his concern on the matter to Alabama Senator Clyde Chambliss, saying, “While I am in agreement that a gas tax is a good way to generate revenue to help improve Alabama’s infrastructure and roadways, I am very disappointed that the bill will also tax electric and hybrid vehicles. From what I have read, the bill would tax drivers of EV’s $200 annually and drivers of hybrids $100 annually, which would be some of the highest tax rates in the nation for these types of vehicles.”
Sherer, a LEED Green Associate, and former Vice Chair of the State Board of the Alabama Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), went on to say, “I realize that these vehicles use no gas, or less gas than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, but shouldn’t we be encouraging and rewarding the use of fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles in our State, rather than penalizing their use (especially since some of these vehicles are made right here in Alabama)?”
Sherer isn’t alone in his concern that the proposed fee will deter Alabama drivers to steer away from EV’s and Hybrids.
Keith Johnston, managing attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Birmingham, said, “The fees were reduced from the initial plan of $250 for electric vehicles and $125 for hybrids, but even with that reduction, it is one of the highest taxes levied on battery-electric powered vehicles. If we go forward with this, it will be one of the highest taxes levied on electric vehicles in the country.”
According to Sherer, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina all have no additional taxes on hybrids, and Louisiana offers an income tax credit for 30% of the cost of an alternative fuel vehicle or fueling station, on top of a 10% tax credit.
Sherer continued in his letter to Senator Chambliss, “I encourage you to do what you can to modify this bill so that Alabama helps lead the nation in encouraging the use of alternative-fuel vehicles – not penalizing the use of them at the highest rate in the country.”
Chambliss, State Senator for District 30, simply replied, “Thank you for your input. I’m working to see if we can make some changes in this section.”
The fees are set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020. They would increase by $3 on July 1, 2023, and would go up an additional $3 every four years. According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, the state currently has 116 charging stations and 270 outlets, ranking Alabama 32nd in the U.S.
As of now, EV’s and Hybrids make up less than 3 percent of U.S. cars on the roadways, with 2,300 of those owners living in the state of Alabama. As one of only 6 states that bans the direct sale of the popular electric vehicle, Tesla, EV’s are not available in the state, forcing revenue to flow out to the nearest dealerships like the one in Atlanta.
Sherer said he feels that if the state lifted the ban for electric vehicles, more people would spend their money purchasing vehicles in Alabama, creating more revenue for the state and local businesses, thus making the fees unnecessary.
To voice your concerns or support for the proposed EV and Hybrid fees, contact local State Senator Chris Elliott for District 32 at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 251-990-4615.