Georgia’s leadership on electric vehicle (EV) adoption is in jeopardy. The two transportation bills that are before a 6-member conference committee in the Georgia legislature would cut the $5,000 state tax credit for EVs in Georgia starting July 1 and create a $200 yearly user fee for EV drivers in the state. This one-two punch to EVs is bad news for a state that, in 2014, saved $10 million on fuel costs and avoided the burning of 4.5 million gallons of gasoline thanks to EVs.
The EV tax credit pays dividends
As I’ve previously mentioned, the $5,000 tax credit for qualified EVs in Georgia has enabled the Peach State to become one of the fastest-growing markets for EVs in the United States. As of July 2014, Georgia had the second-most registered EVs in the country, while Atlanta surpassed Seattle to claim the second-highest percentage of EV registrations among major U.S. metropolitan areas.
Georgia’s success with EVs has translated into big benefits for Georgians. UCS analysis found that the average driver of an EV in Georgia saved more than $850 on fuel compared to the driver of a gasoline-powered vehicle and EVs reduced harmful climate change emissions in Georgia by more than 22,000 tons last year. Continued policy support is essential to keep the EV market growing in Georgia, and it’s disappointing that Georgia lawmakers may make it more difficult for state residents to access the many benefits of driving on electricity.
Still want an EV? That’ll be $200 please
I get why lawmakers want an EV user fee. Some of the funds needed to maintain Georgia’s roads, bridges, tunnels, and other transportation infrastructure come from a state tax on gasoline. Since some EVs like the Nissan LEAF use no gasoline, EV drivers haven’t been paying into this funding pot (though they are paying local taxes on their utility bill). So, it seems reasonable to have EV drivers kick in since they use Georgia’s highways and byways like every other driver.
But enacting a flat fee on EV drivers, regardless of how much they drive, doesn’t level the playing field. Georgia drivers who buy gasoline pay into the infrastructure fund on a usage basis, which is logical. The more you drive, the more wear and tear you put on Georgia’s roads, and therefore the more you pay for upkeep. A flat $200 user fee, on the other hand, will force an EV owner who drives 1,000 miles a year to pay the same as an EV owner who drives 10,000 miles a year. Moreover, an average driver of a gasoline-powered vehicle would only pay about $182 a year via the Georgia House-proposed 29.2 cent gas tax, assuming they drive 15,000 miles in a vehicle that gets 24.1 mpg, the average fuel economy of new vehicles. On the other hand, someone driving a 50 mpg Toyota Prius, while still burning gasoline, would pay only $88.
Instead of creating a program that would both ensure EV drivers help maintain Georgia’s transportation infrastructure and make it easier to own a vehicle that costs less to fuel and helps reduce climate change emissions, the punitive measures in the current transportation bills will likely cause EV sales to flat line or decline, ultimately harming long-term economic growth in Georgia. A recent economic report found that removing the EV tax credit would subtract $252 million from Georgia’s economy over the next 16 years and Georgia consumers would spend an additional $188 million over the next five years on vehicle fuel and maintenance.
Help maintain EV support in Georgia
Hope for EV support in Georgia is not lost. Earlier this session, UCS supported a bill that would have broadened the state EV tax credit to cover plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, like the Chevy Volt, and gradually phase the credit out over the next 5 years. The conference committee tasked with combining the differing versions of the transportation bill that passed out of each chamber in the Georgia legislature could include similar language in the final version of the transportation bill. But these members need to hear from constituents that continued support for EVs in Georgia matters to Georgia drivers.
If you happen to live in the jurisdiction of any of the below members, or reside in Georgia, reach out and let them know why continued policy support for EVs is essential. You can also pen LTEs to your local media outlet, or post some of our facts on EVs on your favorite social media networks. Let your voice be heard and stay tuned for updates on the fight to support EVs in Georgia.
Georgia Transportation Conference Committee Legislators: