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California May Ditch Gas Tax And Watch You Everywhere Instead

Key Takeaways

  • Caltrans is piloting the California Road Charge program to track mileage instead of having a gas tax.
  • With 1.5 million EVs on the road, the state is losing money on these vehicles since they don’t use gas.
  • Consumer opposition poses a significant challenge in implementing the tracking system.

In a move everyone is sure to love, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is piloting a new program to recover lost gas tax revenue that would see the state track the mileage of your car everywhere you go. The program, titled “California Road Charge,” is offering $400 for volunteers to either elect to have a tracking device installed on their vehicle or submit pictures over the length of the program.

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The state already has a $100 a year annual fee to recoup some of the lost gas tax revenue for EVs, but according to a Caltrans spokesperson, the average combustion driver pays about $300 per year in gas taxes. Given that there are 1.5 million EVs on California roads and all of this money is supposed to be for upkeep of the state’s highway system, it’s seen as not fair that a Model 3 isn’t paying as much as a Toyota Corolla.

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It’s A Necessary Evil

The program will start July 1st and run for six months. Each month, the driver will have to pay for their mileage online, which will be tracked either through a device in your OBDII port, through the connected systems offered by your vehicle manufacturer, or by taking pictures and logging the odometer. Individual rates based on your vehicle and flat rates are randomly assigned to participants to determine which might be better, which may stink if you drive an inefficient vehicle like the Ford Mustang GT.

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According to the California Energy Commission, the state currently has a population of a little over 30 million vehicles, of which 27.8 million are combustion or hybrid models. Given each model is paying $300 on average for taxes, the state does have enough money to cover its $8-$9 billion roadway budget, but if things stay as they are, the cash won’t cover the state’s expenses forever.

From 2022 to 2023, the state added about 400,000 EVs with a decline of about 300,000 combustion vehicles. If it continues at this rate, in just a few short years the state will start running into trouble, and even if the rate slows, the increase in fuel efficient hybrids could have a similar negative effect. The state could go with an increased annual tax like Texas has done, but it’s currently feeling the method its pursuing would be fairer to everyone involved.

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How Do EVs Pay A Fair Share?

It’s indisputable that if you contribute to the wear and tear of the roadway, you should be held liable for the upkeep. Until now, the gas tax has worked, but we’ll very quickly run into an infrastructure crisis across the country if we don’t levy similar taxes on EVs. Not to mention, the heavier weight of these vehicles is most likely causing more damage than similar combustion ones, making their participation even more reasonable.


Toyota Benefits As California Falls Out Of Love With EVs

Registrations for new hybrids took a jump in California while electric registrations slowed.

Tracking is just going to be a hard sell no matter how you pitch it. Consumers hate the idea of being tracked (even though we willingly carry phones and smartwatches wherever we go), so it’s going to be met with serious opposition. Taking pictures is less intrusive, but still adds another task to your to-do list once a month. That’s just another roadblock in the way of EV ownership, something California is going to need more people to subscribe to if it wants to succeed with its 2035 combustion engine ban.


Source: MotorTrend

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