Charging electric cars

As younger people opt out of driving and others opt for electric cars, state and federal gas tax revenues have been dropping fast. The Federal Highway Trust Fund, on which most states depend, is nearly empty.

Oregon is trying out a new program which requires electric vehicles, whose owners don't pay fuel taxes but do use public roads, to pay a road-usage fee. At the moment the program is voluntary, and the state hopes to sign up 5,000 drivers whose cars will be outfitted with a device that records miles drive and report it to a commercial contractor. The Oregon Transportation Dept. will bill drivers 1.5 cents per mile driven. Privacy issues are involved because of the use of a data port, a commercial contractor, and because GPSs are used in some systems.

The Nevada Motor Vehicles Department is watching the experiment with an eye to adopting a similar system. It could not be adopted in Nevada until 2017 at the earliest, because it would require legislative action and the lawmakers meet only every other year. They adjourned on June 1 for two years. In the meantime, the state universities in Reno and Las Vegas are working on a report on the technology that will be delivered to the lawmakers in 2017.