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Proposal to levy surcharge on electric vehicle owners passes Hawaii Legislature

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Hawaii legislators have approved a bill this session that would charge owners of electric and alternative fuel vehicles an additional registration fee of $50.

Senate Bill 409, introduced by state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, assesses and collects the $50 surcharge with the first registration renewal for every electric and alternative fuel vehicle in addition to the annual $45 vehicle registration fee, starting Jan. 1, 2020. The surcharge fees would be deposited into the state highway fund.

The bill has been sent to Gov. David Ige for approval.

The Ulupono Initiative, Blue Planet Foundation and Servco Pacific Inc. testified in opposition to the bill, saying it ran counter to the state’s clean energy goals and would be a disincentive to those seeking to drive environmentally-friendly cars. The Sierra Club of Hawaii said adopting the bill “would be a major step in the wrong direction.”

The Hawaii Department of Transportation testified in support of the bill, saying it was important that “all users, including owners of electric vehicles and owners of electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles that are driven on the state highways, contribute their share of revenues to support the needs of the state highway fund.”

Currently, the number of registered EVs make up less than 1% of the 1.07 million registered passenger vehicles in the state. As of April this year, there were 9,122 passenger electric vehicles registered in the state, a 29.2% increase from the same month last year, and a 1.9% increase from March, according to the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism’s monthly energy trends report.

The state is at the same time considering a road usage fee instead of pay-at-the-pump fuel tax, and is seeking the community’s input on the concept. A number of community meetings were held throughout the isles in March and April, with one more to be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the AJA Veterans Hall in Hilo.

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