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Idaho bill that would double electric vehicle fees unlikely to move forward this session

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BOISE — A bill that would have raised electric vehicle registration fees from $140 to $300 per year appears to be dead for the session after concerns about its impact were raised by Idaho Power.

The bill was introduced in early April through the House Ways and Means Committee by Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, who is the chairman of the House Transportation Committee. The committee voted 4-3 in favor of introducing the bill. It was referred to the House Transportation Committee but has not received a hearing. Palmer did not respond to a request for comment.

Idaho Power has set a goal of providing 100% clean energy to its customers by 2045, in part by investing in wind, solar and other clean energy sources. The company also has several electric vehicles in its fleet, including passenger cars, hybrid-electric trucks and electric utility vehicles. By 2030, the company’s goals for its fleet of vehicles is 75% electric passenger cars, 75% electric forklifts, and 35% electric “other” vehicles, including SUVs. The company plans to make all of its newly purchased vehicles electric by 2030.

RELATED | Legislation would double electric vehicle registration fees

Sven Berg, a spokesperson for Idaho Power, said representatives from the company reached out to Palmer after the bill’s introduction and detailed their concerns.

“We are concerned that the proposed fee does not reflect a fair offset for electric vehicles not paying the gas tax, and would discourage Idahoans from buying electric vehicles,” Berg said. “We are not 100% opposed necessarily to bills that would increase fees for electric vehicles. Because they don’t use gas, you’re not capturing the revenue that helps pay for road maintenance. We would just like whatever bill it is to more methodically calculate the correct amount for that fee increase, and we think that’s going to be a more in-depth conversation perhaps in future legislative sessions.”

Legislators still disagree about funding approaches

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, who sits on the House Transportation Committee, said he doesn’t expect the bill to move forward, but he would have supported it had it come up for a hearing. When Palmer introduced the bill, he said the registration amount is based on the average mileage per year by a gas-powered car versus electric vehicles.

“It appears folks aren’t ready for a mileage assessment instead of fuel tax, but something’s going to have to happen one of these days, because I know more and more vehicles are going to be transitioning to electric,” Youngblood said.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, who also sits on the House Transportation Committee, said she thought it was “a pretty outrageous bill,” but she thinks it won’t move forward this session.

“This was out of the ballpark of what any other state is doing,” Rubel said. “Most states don’t have any surcharge at all.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 28 states impose a special registration fee on plug-in electric vehicles. These fees are typically in addition to traditional motor vehicle registration fees – the registration fee for a gas-powered vehicle in Idaho is $69 for vehicles one or two years old and $57 for vehicles three to six years old.

As of 2019, 1,014 electric vehicles were registered in Idaho, representing over $140,000 per year in fees. The increase would raise that amount to an estimated $300,000 per year, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Rubel said legislation that targets electric vehicles ignores industrial-size trucks, which she says are “really tearing up the road.”

“Why didn’t we have a heightened registration fee for truck drivers, who have a vastly higher impact on the roads than a Nissan Leaf does?” Rubel said.

Idaho Power hopes future bills are ‘thoughtful’

Berg said he wouldn’t say Idaho Power “killed” the bill, but officials with the company expressed a hope that any future bills along the same line are more detailed.

“If there is going to be a bill, we’d like it to be thoughtful and take into consideration all the inputs and all the factors at play here,” Berg said. “We understand if you’re not buying gas and using the road, the only way to pay for road maintenance is through the registration fee. We just want it to be done in a more methodical and thoughtful way.”