Tracy Harden: Added tax on EV users won’t improve Utah’s air quality

EV drivers are already paying a lot to be early adopters.

Recently the Utah House passed a bill - HB301 - that would add another tax to electric vehicle (EV) ownership. It’s now moving to the Senate for consideration.

This bill is flawed for several reasons, chief among them that the motivation for the bill is to collect a road usage tax from out-of-state EV drivers, yet the tax will apply to all charging units in Utah that charge a fee. The tax does not discern between an in-state or out-of-state driver. Secondly, EV owners are already paying taxes for road usage.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, has stated that most Utah EV owners charge at home, so therefore, they really wouldn’t be paying the tax. This assumption fails to consider that not all EV owners are homeowners. And not all homes are wired adequately to charge an EV. Apartment dwellers and homeowners are using fee charging stations. Non-homeowner EV drivers are going to have their taxes roughly doubled if they do all their charging at public fast chargers, which means they’ll pay around twice as much as a driver of a gasoline fueled car.

EV owners already pay a sales and franchise tax at fee stations. The new 12.5% tax would create a third tax. Additionally, EV owners are already paying a road usage tax in their vehicle registration fee. While all registered vehicles pay $44, EV owners pay and additional $130, and HB186, passed in the 2022 session, will increase this fee further in 2026, and by 2032 they will be paying $240.

It’s also interesting that the bill sponsor and some on the Taxation Committee have commented that they want to capture revenue from out-of-state EV drivers who are using our highway system, but they didn’t acknowledge the amount of travel we Utahns do throughout our state. Utah’s EV owners travel widely throughout the state and beyond the range of their home charging. They will be paying a fee to use the road on top of what they’ve already been assessed.

Half of all vehicle sales in Utah are forecast to be electric by 2030. Utah’s current goal is to have EV charging stations every 50 miles throughout our highway system. These chargers will be essential to residents and non-residents alike, and everyone will be subject to the tax.

As for collecting a road usage fee from non-residents, I ask the Legislature to consider the bigger picture. We are struggling to control our air quality. The EPA is finally stepping in to demand the state curb emissions. If folks from other states travel through Utah in an EV that has been charged in surrounding states with cleaner grids than ours, shouldn’t we welcome them instead of taxing them?

As we transition to the majority of the vehicles on our roads being either an electric vehicle or one that runs on a cleaner alternative fuel, let’s show our support for these early adopters, the ones paying premiums for cars running on clean energy or have lower emissions.

In another 10 to 15 years, when less than half the cars driven are combustion engines, let’s take another look at how we collect road use taxes. For now, let all EV drivers travel throughout Utah without another tax.

Tracy Harden

Tracy Harden is a marketing and communications consultant by profession, a 32-year resident of Park City, and a member of the Wasatch Back Chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby.