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North Dakota Senate passes new electric vehicle, hybrid fee

Matthew Blackler, founder of ZEF Energy, speaks at the unveiling of a new electric car charging station in Moorhead on Wednesday, Dec. 5. Dave Olson/The Forum

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Senate agreed to impose new fees on owners of electric and hybrid vehicles Tuesday, Jan. 29, a move proponents pitched as a way to balance the scales with traditional gas guzzlers that pay for road projects through fuel taxes.

The 26-19 vote sends Senate Bill 2061 to the House. It would impose an annual “road use fee” of $110 for electric vehicles and $50 for hybrids.

“The reason for establishing these fees is that these vehicles are using the road system but either pay no fuel tax or a very limited amount of fuel tax,” said Sen. Dale Patten, R-Watford City.

The bill also includes a legislative study of designing a “jointly owned public and private network of electric vehicle infrastructure.”

As introduced by Grand Forks Republican Sen. Curt Kreun earlier this month, the bill would have imposed an annual fee of $248 for electric vehicles and $71 for hybrids, but it was later amended with smaller fees. The original electric vehicle fee would have been the largest among the 20 states that already impose one, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A fiscal note predicts the bill would generate roughly $250,000 in the next two-year budget cycle after accounting for computer programming costs.

There are only 141 electric vehicles and 3,849 hybrids registered in the state. But Tioga Republican Sen. David Rust, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said the bill reflected a “proactive” approach to what’s expected to be increasingly common electric vehicles.

Critics called the bill a “money grab” that lawmakers are springing on consumers.

“These are people who have made a choice to pay more for their vehicle and are being environmentally responsible, and I feel like we’re kind of penalizing them,” said Grand Forks Democratic Sen. JoNell Bakke.

A separate House bill would charge an initial $180 registration fee for electric vehicles, and owners would have the option of making annual renewal payments by calculating how many miles the car has traveled in the past year. That bill has a hearing scheduled Thursday morning.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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