MONTPELIER — While there are a host of initiatives the state can use to encourage the use of electric vehicles, more research needs to be done on how to offset the resulting loss of gasoline taxes, officials say.

On Thursday, the Public Utility Commission released a report about how to encourage the proliferation of electric vehicles and their charging stations within the state. It can be viewed online here: bit.ly/0629Electric

The PUC was directed to create the report for the 2017-18 Legislature, said PUC Deputy General Counsel John Cotter in an interview Friday.

He said the report addresses the issue of lost gas taxes, but there’s more work to be done.

“The Legislature this past session directed us to prepare and file a supplemental report that’s due Dec. 15 where they want us to dig a little bit deeper into that,” Cotter said. “So we did do some preliminary reporting on it in this particular report and will be getting into more detail in the subsequent one.”

There are several ways to ensure electric vehicle users contribute to the transportation fund, Cotter said, but two have found broad support.

“One is basically something that would look like the gas tax. It would be a per kilowatt-hour fee on electricity used to charge cars, similar to having however many cents per gallon applied to a gallon of gas when you fill your car,” said Cotter. “The other option would be something that’s known as a vehicle miles tax or travel fee, and it would be based on how many miles you drive your car over a given period of time, the thinking at this time would have it be on an annual basis.”

The Legislature has some time to think about the best option, as there are few electric cars on the road right now. According to the report, as of January, there were only 2,985 electric vehicles registered in Vermont.

“Estimates for how many EVs must be registered in Vermont to meet the goals set forth in (Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan) range from 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles by 2025,” reads the report. “The pace of EV adoption needed to reach 60,000 vehicles by 2025 from the 2,985 EVs registered in Vermont today is an approximately 54% compound annual growth rate.”

Among some of the ideas for getting that many electric vehicles on the road are using state incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles, and encouraging electric companies to create rate structures that welcome electric vehicle users and the operators of charging stations.

Whether this happens will depend on public confidence, said Vermont Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Colchester, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation, in a Friday interview.

“There’s got to be confidence that we’re going to have the charging stations before we even see a growth, because one of the things I hear over and over again, Tesla is the only one that has over a 300-mile range, but people have to be very comfortable about where to charge, even if they can do it at home, whether it’s accessible to get a charging plug at home, what the cost is going to be, so there’s a lot of unanswered questions before there’s a movement,” said Mazza.

The Senate Committee on Transportation is one of several the report was geared toward. The House Committee on Transportation will also see it, as will the Senate Committee on Finance, Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, and the House Committee on Energy and Technology.

Mazza said he is concerned as well about the loss in funds from the gas tax, not only from more electric vehicle usage, but propane and propane hybrids. He said commercial trucking companies are also eyeing switching their fleets to electric, which will ultimately lead to lower tax revenue from diesel fuel sales.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com

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