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Electric Cars-Getting Charged Up

A security guard moves past an electric vehicle charging station in Beijing. Momentum is building worldwide for electric cars thanks to rising government fuel economy standards and climate concerns. Automakers are jumping on board. But selling those cars will be difficult unless the world builds more charging stations.  

Talk about a bumpy road.

Lawmakers are considering raising the registration fee on electric vehicles, or EVs, from $17.50 to $1,000.

You read that right: $1,000.

The fee, proposed by state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, is one option as the General Assembly scrambles for revenue before the session wraps May 31 to fund road and bridge improvements.

In the big picture, Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker has a bunch of possibilities floating around for his inaugural budget that starts July 1. Legalizing sports betting and recreational pot, adding a tax on plastic bags and hiking cigarette taxes even higher have been put on the table.

The capital bill is focused on transportation-related revenue. Along with the EV money, Sandoval wants to increase the license fee for conventional vehicles to $60, send vehicle registrations to $148 and double the gas tax to 44 cents a gallon.

Messing with the 19-cent fuel tax, which hasn't been touched since 1990, has become more politically palpable since the passage of an amendment that requires transportation-generated money be spent on transportation project.

Yet, as we’ve written about before, it is far from a magic budgetary bullet, in part because less money has been coming in as fuel efficiency keeps getting better.

The other issue is that electric vehicles, by virtue of not consuming fossil fuels, don't contribute at all, despite causing wear and tear on bridges and roads. That's a problem because the number of vehicles has been steadily increasing.

There's no question these owners should pay their fair share for infrastructure upkeep, but $1,000?

That’s a good way to deter purchases. Worse, electric vehicle startup Rivian, based in suburban Detroit, is scheduled to begin production next year in the former Mitsubishi plant in Normal. Ford Motor Co. recently announced a $500 million investment.

There's a lot riding on this sector, and tax incentives are making Illinois attractive to companies like Rivian, even as lawmakers seek to make purchases less attractive to consumers.

Something doesn't make sense here.

The proposed EV registration change works out to a 5,614 percent jump.

Is a modest increase needed?

Yes.

Is a $1,000 fee needed?

No.

That's not fair.

Rather, it may sink a promising part of our state's economy.

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