Oklahoma’s top transportation official is hoping lawmakers make progress soon on policies to generate highway funding from hybrid and electric vehicles.
The concern is those types of vehicles use less gasoline, meaning less gas tax revenue for road and bridge work. State Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said last week there are many potential solutions, including registration fees or coming up with road user charges — essentially, a gallons of gasoline equivalent tax on electric miles traveled.
Industry projections put electric vehicles nearing half the passenger fleet by 2040. They currently represent less than 2% of vehicles in Oklahoma, but Gatz said he believes the transition will happen at some point.
"I think it’s simply a matter of speculation on how fast the passenger fleet’s going to turn over, whether that happens in five years, 10 years or 15 years, but I think it’s going to happen. When you hear companies like General Motors advise that they’re going to phase out their internal combustion engine by 2035, I think that reality starts to set in," Gatz said.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 28 states assess special registration fees on plug-in electric vehicles, with 14 of those states also charging additional fees on plug-in hybrids.
Transportation Commissioner and trucking executive Bob Peterson said he’s seen an analysis that a similar fleet changeover could happen in the next 20 years for long-haul trucks, though that will take significant, nationwide investment in charging infrastructure.
"But, there are electric class A trucks being used today for short trips where you end up back at your terminal where you can recharge," Peterson said.
Fellow Transportation Commissioner and trucking executive Don Freymiller said he can picture short-distance electric trucks being widely used in places like harbors and ports in 10 to 20 years.
"The over-the-road, long-haul — which Oklahoma is really a bridge state for a lot of trucks, they enter and exit our state — them kind of trucks, I believe, are way further down the road yet," Freymiller said.