A proposal by the government of South Australia to introduce a road user charge for electric vehicles is welcome recognition all motorists – irrespective of how their vehicles are powered – need to pay their fair share, said the Victorian Transport Association.
Responding to the proposal, which is set to commence from July 1 next year, VTA CEO Peter Anderson said that as electric vehicles became increasingly popular in response to government incentives to increase sales, it was essential to start to factor in a mechanism for recovering road user charge revenue lost from an expected reduction in conventional petrol/diesel vehicles, over time.
“The South Australian government is to be applauded for taking a leadership role in anticipating the need for a mechanism to charge electric vehicle drivers for using the roads, just as heavy vehicle and petrol-driven passenger vehicle drivers have been paying for decades,” Anderson said.
“While electric vehicles are not expected to overtake sales of petrol and diesel fuelled cars for some time, these vehicles are the way of the future as governments around the world incentivise their purchase to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
“At some point EV drivers will need to contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of the nation’s transport infrastructure so it’s only fair that they also contribute to the road user charge.”
Under the South Australian proposal, the amount of the charge is yet to be determined but is said to combine a standard registration-style fee and a separate usage-based component that would require motorists to use a logbook.
Anderson said as the charging mechanism is further explored in conjunction with other state and national jurisdictions, a mechanism should be developed that charges EV motorists at the charging station, removing the need for logbooks.
“As state government’s roll-out EV charging stations they should consider how technology can be used to calculate and charge users at the charging station, like the way in which a percentage of fuel sales are levied back to the Commonwealth.
“Payment terminals at charging stations could conceivably be used as collection terminals with a percentage of the feed-in tariff rate applied and charged to the driver in real-time. This would mitigate the need for logbooks, which we know are cumbersome and less accurate, which is why the statutory formula was introduced as an alternative for calculating fringe benefit tax contributions,” Anderson said.
“As other jurisdictions recognise the need for EV’s to contribute to the road user charge, it will be important that a consistent and uniform charging mechanism be adopted – the VTA looks forward to participating in discussions with the Transport Infrastructure Council and state and Commonwealth jurisdictions to land on an EV road user charge that is fair and equitable.”
Responding to the announcement, the Australian Trucking Association highlighted the need for an increased uptake of electric vehicles and has called for continued incentives from governments.
“Governments should accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles and make hydrogen trucks a commercial reality,” said acting CEO of the ATA Bill McKinley.
McKinley said that while fuel duty was in structural decline, revenue was not keeping pace with increases in vehicle kilometres travelled.
“Road charges used to bring in more revenue than what was spent on roads. Without reform, the structural decline in fuel duty will mean roads need to be subsidised from other revenue, which would impact funds allocated for other priorities such as schools and hospitals,” he said.
“The burden of paying for roads would be forced onto the general public, even if they don’t use roads, as well as those who currently don’t have the ability to use an electric vehicle, especially in rural areas,” he said.
McKinley said the existing system was not fair.
“Opponents of an electric vehicle road user charge need to explain what other taxes should be increased or what services will be cut in order to sustainable and fairly fund safe roads into the future.”
McKinley added that road user charging was not about reducing electric vehicle uptake.
“Research shows us the main disincentive to electric vehicle uptake is the upfront price. Governments should work to reduce these barriers.
“Even with a road user charge, electric vehicle costs over an average ownership period are likely to be lower than that of petrol and diesel vehicles.”
The ATA has also called on governments to ensure road user charges for electric heavy vehicles are calculated fairly and transparently.
“The South Australian electric vehicle road user charge should include heavy vehicles and be set within the existing national system for setting heavy vehicle charges,” McKinley said.
“Electric trucks are a reality, and the South Australian road user charge must be set in a way which is nationally compatible and does not impose red tape on interstate operators.”