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Hybrid and EV owners pay extra for registration. OH Really?

photo of newer and older Toyotas
Kabir Bhatia
/
WKSU
The 1974 Toyota Corolla on the right manages about 25 miles per gallon. The 2010 Toyota Prius on the left is rated at about 50 mpg. And only one of them is subject to a registration surcharge of $100.

Ohio drivers with electric or hybrid vehicles have to pay an extra fee when it comes time to renew their registration. It’s been that way for two years, and a listener asks our “OH Really?” team: Why?

The extra fee kicked in at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic: about two years ago, which is also the amount of time that a registration is usually good for. So, EV and hybrid owners like Kris Boone from Wooster are just now getting their first renewal forms with the added fee.

Boone: "I received my vehicle renewal application from the BMV, and one of the things I noticed on it, because I drive a Prius, was that there is a fuel type charge of $100, which kind of doubles the cost of the plate. And I was really surprised by that."

And the fee is $200 for pure electric vehicles (EVs).

Bhatia: "The gas tax is 38.5 cents per gallon in Ohio. How would you feel if everybody ended up pre-paying a flat rate when they renewed, to make up for the gas tax, and then the price of gas could drop 38.5 cents per gallon for everybody?"

Boone: "I think that would be pretty popular, actually. That wouldn't be something that I would have a problem with."

Kabir: "Conversely, wouldn't that make gas prices drop to the point that people wouldn't find EV's and hybrids as attractive?"

Boone: "Probably. I mean this is a weird time period for those kinds of things because we know, from a larger environmental perspective, we do know that that's the direction we need to go."

Brendan Kelley would agree with her. He’s the director of the Drive Electric Ohio initiative with the group Clean Fuels Ohio, which advocates for energy-efficient transportation. Kelley says this all goes back to 2019, when the state’s gas tax increase was being debated, and fees were being considered for hybrids and EVs. Those vehicles use less gas, or no gas, and that means a drop in gas tax revenue.

Clean Fuels Ohio recommended a fee of between $50 and $100 for Electric Vehicles, and half that for hybrids. Kelley says under their proposal, some of that money would have gone toward a charging infrastructure for electric cars.

“That makes sense both at a level that is comparable what somebody who drives a gas car would pay in gas tax. But also because it’s a burgeoning market, and the growth of this market is good for Ohio [and] important, frankly, for our state’s future given our role as an auto manufacturing state.”

And just as Boone says her Prius is the future for drivers, Kelley says it’s also the future for Ohio manufacturing.

“Basically, every auto manufacturer has made commitments between now and 2035 or so about transitioning their production to EVs and discontinuing, or ramping down, their production of gas vehicles," he said. "So, this is something we’re going to see more and more of. This is a global transitioning that’s happening right now. The question is: what is Ohio’s piece of that going to be?”

Numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2020, Ohio was third in the nation in the number of auto manufacturing jobs and second in making parts. Yet, the state is also near the top of the list in hybrid and EV registration fees. Only seven states have fees which are equal to or greater than the ones in Ohio.

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Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.