(NEXSTAR) — Starting next week, Texas drivers of electric vehicles will have to pay more money than they used to register their rides. The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott back in May and establishes a $400 fee to register a new electric vehicle in Texas — in addition to a $200 annual fee thereafter.
This is in addition to annual Texas vehicle registration fees, which cost $50.75 for most passenger vehicles/trucks.
The bill was approved by the Texas Senate in March and approved by the state House in April. The author of SB 505, Republican Sen. Robert Nichols, said the law aims to make sure EV owners are paying their fair share of state highway funding, which is paid for by gasoline/diesel fuel tax dollars.
“We recognized some time ago that each time an all-electric vehicle does get on the road and displaces a gasoline or diesel vehicle that the state highway fund loses money,” Nichols said in March. “So the object here is to try to identify how much money do we lose on both state and federal and try to make that up with a fee adjustment.”
Currently, Texas’ gas tax is 20 cents per gallon, with the average driver paying $9.52 per month in state fuel taxes, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. As Gizmodo explains, U.S. Energy Information Administration data shows the average Texas driver consumed around 55 million British thermal units (BTU) of motor gasoline in 2018. To convert BTUs into gallons, the EIA recommends 1 gallon = 120,238 BTU.
Measured this way, the average Texan uses 457 gallons of gasoline each year, meaning they pay around $91.40 in fuel taxes. Consumer Reports Senior Policy Analyst for Transportation and Energy, Chris Harto, wrote last year that bills like SB 505 would punish EV owners, since the average Texan actually only contributes around $71 per year, based on their data review.
Given even the higher figure, $91.40, EV owners in Texas would actually be paying around $500 more in fuel taxes their first year of ownership.
Texas isn’t alone in charging EV owners.
As the National Conference of State Legislatures reports, at least 32 states require special registration fees for electric vehicles. Additionally, 19 also collect fees for plug-in hybrid vehicles.
As detractors of such laws argue, it’s a concern that these laws are unfair to those wanting to consume less — in addition to potentially being camouflaged support of the gasoline industry by lawmakers.
“Consumers should not be punished for choosing a cleaner, greener car that saves them money on fuel and maintenance,” CR policy analyst Dylan Jaff wrote in April. “The fees proposed in this bill will establish an inequitable fee scale for EV owners, and will not provide a viable solution to the long-standing issue of road funding revenue.”
Among other changes coming to vehicle laws Sept. 1 is House Bill 1885, which allows Texas Department of Transportation engineers at the local level to temporarily lower speed limits on state roads and highways for situations like extreme weather and construction. As explained by Texas Tribune, these decisions can be made without statewide TxDOT approval. Speed limit changes must be indicated by signs and, per the law, can’t be lower than 10 miles under the regular speed limit.
Central Texas tax offices prepare to answer questions
In Williamson County, the Tax Assessor’s Office has been spreading news of the new fees ahead of September 1.
The county debuted a video giving a breakdown of the state fees and why they’re being implemented on its website just this week.
Larry Gaddes, tax assessor/collector for the county, said his office is prepared to field questions once the new registration fees are rolled out.
“We do expect a lot of questions to be asked about why there’s an additional $200 fee on their registration bill,” Gaddes said.
Gaddes said, like the rest of the state, Williamson County has seen an increase in electric vehicles on its roads.
“If you look back at 2016, there were less than 10,000 EVs on the road. Today, there’s over 100,000 throughout the entire state. We definitely follow that,” Gaddes said.
Gaddes said that EV owners whose registration expires in September or October of this year could avoid these new fees by renewing their registration before September 1.
“You cannot renew more than 90 days in advance. If it expires after [October] those folks are not eligible. They will have to wait and they will be forced to pay the $200 fee,” Gannes said.