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Musings on One Year of Ownership -- and a Punitive EV Policy

2394 Views 24 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  llninja
Yesterday was the day, June 3rd. I got behind the wheel; the guy at the dealership pushed the button on the automatic roll door; and I drove on out of the new-car staging showroom. 365 days later I have not a single regret and largely love the car like none other I have owned. Mostly I love the series-hybrid technology, quite often marveling at its uniqueness. Would I change some things? Sure. The NAV traffic function is weak, and when I venture into the big city (Detroit) I make sure to take my Garmin. And preferentially I’d like the vehicle to be a bit larger (wheelbase + 2”). But overall the technology wooed me and the seductiveness of it sustains.

Of course no EV ownership summary is complete without the (tiresome) geek stuff. My vehicle has amassed 13,530 miles. With a just-filled tank to replicate the dealership rollout, I have spent $228 on gas ($19/mo, 104 gal total), which pushes me into the fuel depot roughly once a month. In conjunction with off-peak pricing, my records show an electric bill increase of $29 per month. If you churn the math using my average gas cost ($2.19/gal) that sifts out to 51.8 mpg.

Almost double my previous car. And despite occasional trips up north (MI talk), I drive electric 70% of the time; more than I anticipated pre-ownership. I think that’s pretty good although Ms. Kingfish’ driving routine positively pushes the 90% threshold.

That leaves me on the shoreline of our week just past, which brought directional departure from the Paris climate accord and reflecting on how that action might sit with folks on this forum. Disconcerting in the overall I would surmise. I put forth that soapbox assessment on the assumption that most of us here tend to bask in EV progress and its linkage with a greener world.

After all, we saw EVs hit a new sales record in 2016 up 37% from 2015. And despite low gas prices, shoppers purchased 70% more EVs last January than in January 2016. That’s an impressive increase, even though EVs still account for only one percent of the entire auto market. We have purchase incentives from the past, as well as fuel-economy standards and zero-emission targets in play. That’s all a good thing – right?

In the wake of that positive headway, we also seem to have an anti-science movement afoot and numerous national examples of behavioral incentives that inexplicably push in the opposite direction. I will share one such example in my home state of MI. This year we initiated a tax to repair our roads; both items were long in need (tax & repair). The average cost for license tabs in MI is about $120; that will increase by about 20% at the Secretary Of State (a proportional added cost for all owners). The gas tax also goes up 7.3 cents, to 26.3 cents per gallon. So, on an annual basis, let’s review three distinct sedan-cost scenarios:

GAS PERSON The guy at work travels 13,530 miles per year (same as above); he owns a 2014 vehicle getting 35 mpg (nominal pass-car national average). He consumes 387 gallons of gasoline. Total cost $102.

PLUG-IN HYBRID PERSON The beloved Kingfish owns a Volt. He consumes 104 gallons of gasoline (same as above); cost $27. He now pays a hybrid fee ($30) and a hybrid gas-tax fee ($17), both SOS surcharges. Total cost $74.

ELECTRIC PERSON The lady next door owns a Nissan Leaf. She now pays an electric fee ($100) and an electric gas-tax fee ($35), both SOS surcharges. Total cost $135.

It should be noted that for any increase in mileage, Electric Person would realize a lower cost-per-mile because her cost is fixed. Nonetheless, all three owners consume the infrastructure in an equal fashion. In this example Hybrid Person pays less than Gas Person and is therefore rewarded by an insightful community for going green. Not so for Electric Person; by ratio she is obliged to pay 32% more than Gas Person.

Has our cherished leadership been intentionally punitive toward segments of EV and does that serve the state of Michigan? And further, does such punitive public policy serve this country?

To shamelessly steal the title from an always-invigorating weekly PBS Newshour feature, the latter village dialog is my -- Brief But Spectacular Take on our unfolding EV future. Thank you for listening,
2014 Brownstone Metallic / Pebble Beige Leather-Suede / purchased April 2014
2017 Citron Green Metallic / Jet Black Leather / purchased June 2016
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The bigger problem is that with so many taxes picking one tax -- in this case the gas tax -- and trying to make that "fair" is impossible. For example, since a battery pack costs more than a gas tank, owners of EVs will pay more in sales taxes. Plus they may pay taxes on their electrical consumption. So to some extent what they are saving in gas taxes they are paying in sales taxes. On the other hand, not needing or paying for maintenance will cut their sales taxes. Essentially there are so many taxes collected on so many things in so many ways that it's difficult to make a fairness argument, much make any one tax, fair.

If road maintenance is an issue, and I agree it is, what they should have done is simply levy a flat tax based on mass and be done with it.
Well, politicians are lazy and reactive, so they're still trying to figure out what to do about a problem that's always been there, but was exacerbated by the arrival of hybrids, then the 2nd gen Prius, then the Volt and Leaf, then the Model S, then the Model S D, then the Model X, then 2nd gen Volt, then the Bolt and Prime and soon the Model 3 and 2nd gen Leaf (the list is not exhaustive).

The first question is to ask is "What makes up the cost of a vehicle's road use?" Once you answer that question you can figure out what the perfect road pricing system would be. Then work backwards from there to a pricing system that is simplified to keep overheads down, but tries to keep the key elements of cost overall. Personally, I think that f(miles_driven,weight) would likely be the best we can already use for private vehicles, and would be pretty easy since we have VIN databases to give vehicle weights or use registered weight where specified, plus we have odometer readings. If there's essential fixed components (say due to climatic effects) those would be fixed fees on _every_ vehicle. Commercial vehicles already often operate with more detailed information and could be priced more exactly, perhaps with time-and-place-based variation.

If the costs aren't really fixed and there are fixed fees, then we'd end up with different but still wrong pricing signals for driving, and a perpetual funding issues.

Hopefully we'll soon have fully autonomous vehicles with cheap autonomy systems and we'll ditch all of these hassles of vehicle ownership and instead discuss which taxi/rental companies offer the best deals.
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