Electric vehicle users don't have to pay for power

I have heard that the new charging stations for electric cars will be free for users. How and why is this possible? Who will be paying for the electricity? What about their share of the road usage and upkeep? Will that be the sole responsibility of the gas users?

­— Penny M., Medford

Do we detect just a hint of electric envy in your tone, Penny? You are not alone in raising these questions, however: the Oregon Legislature has been wrestling with the issue for some time, but at present, there is not only no roads tax, but the electricity will be free at numerous sites.

The state plans to build eight charging stations from Eugene to Ashland by the end of October, stretched about 50 miles apart. Both Medford and Ashland could receive these stations, which fully charge a vehicle in 30 minutes or less. Those stations are in addition to existing and planned stations in the northern end of the state.

The electricity will be free for the vehicles. According to Art James with the Oregon Department of Transportation's Electric Vehicle Charging Network Program there are a number of businesses that have offered to provide the electricity free of charge as a public service, and as an opportunity to tout their "green" energy commitment. ODOT is negotiating with landowners for locations for these charging stations.

Currently, electric vehicles don't pay the road taxes that are part of the fill-up bill for gas-powered vehicles.

The Legislature wrestled with a bill in 2010 that would have created a mechanism to start applying fees to electric cars. The proposal, which did not advance for a full vote in either house of the Legislature, would have allowed electric vehicle owners to continue paying nothing until 2015. Then in 2015-2018, electric vehicles would have been charged .85 cents a mile. After 2018, the vehicles would be charged 1.56 cents a mile, equivalent to the rate gas-powered vehicles now pay.

The fees would not be assessed through global positioning systems as was earlier proposed, but through other electronic devices built into the vehicles.

Art James, ODOT's Electric Vehicle Charging Network program manager, said ODOT will be working with legislators in 2013 to push through similar legislation. James said that as more and more electric vehicles hit the road, the amount of revenues collected to pay for roads will go down unless a way is found to charge those vehicles.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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