Saying out-of-state electric vehicle drivers don't contribute to maintaining Wyoming's roads and highways, the Wyoming Legislature is considering a tax for icing up up at top-level charging stations.
The Joint Transportation, Highways, and Military Affairs Committee has passed draft legislation to tax all level 3 DC fast charging stations at a rate of 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, an effort by Wyoming lawmakers to have out-of-state electric vehicles not paying fuel taxes to contribute to their impacts on state roads.
DC fast charging is the ideal for traveling extended distances that require short recharge stops along the way, and few U.S. states have more extended distances to travel than Wyoming.
Generally available at public locations, auto dealerships and commercial fleet companies, DC fast chargers (DCFC) can range in output from 50-300 kilowatts and can recharge an EV battery to 80% in anywhere from 15-45 minutes, depending on the vehicle's voltage capacity.
As electric vehicle ranges get longer and EV infrastructure becomes more prevalent, DCFC could be key for EV owners to take longer road trips and travel further along America's highways in a more practical and time-efficient manner.
Wyoming already charges EV owners a $200 road maintenance fee as part of their vehicle registration each year.
There now is no avenue for the Wyoming Department of Transportation to collect fuel tax from out-of-state EV drivers on Wyoming roads, a point the legislation specifically aims to address.
“This is an effort to capture electric generation dollars from people who travel through the state and don’t pay into the fuel tax,” said state Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, co-chair of the Transportation Committee.
The purpose of this tax is strikingly similar to another being considered by the committee earlier in the day Thursday to raise fuel tax rates on diesel and gasoline.
If it’s signed into law, the tax structure would go live in 2025.
Level 2 Concerns
An original version of the bill called for taxing level 2 public charging facilities, lesser-power 240-volt facilities more common in homes, restaurants, hotels, workplaces and public locations such as malls and parking garages. This tax was stripped from the bill.
Sen. Stephan Pappas, R-Cheyenne, described this effort as “barking down the wrong tree” as far as what the Legislature hopes to achieve in charging out-of-state drivers. He mentioned how people charging their EVs at home are already being taxed with their $200 maintenance fee.
“The idea is to try to catch the traveling public that’s going through the state and being able to catch those out-of-state folks and tax them for our roads,” Pappas said.
Sen. John Kolb, R-Rock Springs, agreed to the DC charger tax, but originally expressed trepidation about removing the level 2 tax, which would have been assessed at 3 cents per kWh. He believes the groups offering level 2 chargers cater to people who use the roads and that the state needs to capture revenue from this use.
“I don’t have an issue with charging a fee to a commercial operation with a level 2 charger,” Kolb said. “The issue is, they’re not paying for the road use.”
Josh Fisher of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation said Wyoming has 152 public charging outlets and warned the committee about discouraging private investing in building out the state’s EV charging network with a level 2 tax. He mentioned how certain local businesses provide charging stations for their employees.
Wyoming’s $200 registration charge is among the highest of the 33 states that have one. Colorado and South Dakota both charge $50. This charge is assessed in return for lost gas tax revenue that the EVs don’t provide. Some states, Fisher said, have no fee at all.
“I would say they are contributing to the road fund,” Fisher said.
But Wayne Hassinger, Fuel Tax Administration Program manager for WYDOT, said 3 cents per kilowatt-hour is a typical fee for an electric vehicle. Kristen Gunther, vice president at Wyoming-based electric charging company OtterSpace, said her group supports the per kilowatt-hour tax standard and finds 3 cents “pretty darn” fair compared to per gallon fuel tax rates.
Not Going Away
Sublette County Treasurer Emily Paravicini polled 14 Wyoming counties on the growth of EV ownership in their areas from 2019 to now. Four years ago, there were 68 vehicles among the counties. Those same counties now report 262 EVs, an increase of about 390%. In total, Wyoming has 762 registered electric vehicles.
“This trend is probably going to continue,” she said.
In Wyoming, electricity is considered tangible personal property that can be charged a sales tax. Based on this standard, Wyoming Department of Revenue Excise Tax Administrator Bret Fanning believes charging stations should be assessing a tax to customers on the electricity they use.
Fanning said his department determined that not all charging stations do this, mentioning examples such as a hotel that includes a charging station within its list of basic guest services.
“If they’re not actually charging that end user, how does that sales tax actually get to the state of Wyoming and beyond?” he asked.
In other cases, he said there is an exemption allowing entities to buy electricity without sales tax because they charge sales tax to the electric vehicle customer.
Kolb and Rep. Ken Pendergraft, R-Sheridan, questioned if there was any consideration for vehicle weight in the tax rate determination, but Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, pointed out that vehicle weight is already addressed in registration fees.
“If we simply stick to the goal of having as much parity as possible, it’s a non-controversial goal that I think will have broad support in a budget session,” he said.
Hot Springs County Commissioner Tom Ryan supports the tax and said electric vehicles cause impacts to the roads just like any other vehicle. He mentioned how a Ford F-150 Lightning weighs 35% more than its gas-powered equivalent.
“Unless these vehicles contribute, state and county governments will see gradual, if not accelerating, infrastructure-related declines,” he said.
Fisher disagrees and calls this type of argument a red herring. He believes class A semitrucks cause most of the damage to roads.
“I can find you plenty of SUVs and trucks now that weigh more than electric vehicles,” he said.
Kolb suggested that hybrid vehicles also be included in the maintenance tax. Paravicini agreed and said she’s had customers who own hybrid vehicles and only buy one tank of gas per year.
“If they’re plugging in at home, they’re not paying toward the state’s cost for road repair,” she said.
Fisher disagreed and said most hybrids don’t charge into a wall, adding that EVs become more efficient every year in their power range and weight.
Rep. Cody Wylie, R-Rock Springs, brought a motion to the bill adding a $100 maintenance fee for plug-in hybrids, which was approved by the committee.
Rebate And Staff Cuts
A process also was suggested for Wyoming residents who buy electricity at public vehicle charging facilities to receive a refund in an amount up to their maintenance fee, as long as it is an amount greater than $10. The refund would be limited to the amount of the tax or the annual decal fee of up to $200.
Boner motioned to remove the refund option from the bill because level 2 chargers were eliminated from the tax, which was approved.
Also under the originally drafted legislation, WYDOT would have been authorized to add two positions to implement the new tax through $257,712 taken from the State Highway Fund. This was also cut with the removal of the level 2 tax.
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.