Should electric car owners pay a mileage tax?

Should electric car owners pay a mileage tax? »Play Video
In this file photo taken Nov. 18, 2010, the Nissan Leaf, a 100% electric car, zero emissions vehicle, is test driven at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

EUGENE, Ore. - OK, electric and hybrid car drivers: you thought you were going to save big bucks on gas. 

But if you don't buy gas, you don't pay gas taxes that pay for highway maintenance.

If a state house bill is passed, the state will find its way into your wallet a different direction.

Here comes the vehicle road usage charge.

As proposed, the six-tenths of one cent per mile fee - about $90 a year if you drive 15,000 miles - would go into effect in 2014 if passed.  

"I think there is a concern on how we're going to fund transportation in the future," said state Rep. Terry Beyer, D-Springfield, "so we want to make sure we start exploring all the options."

Beyer said lawmakers don't want the fee to be a disincentive for buying an electric car, but they want electric vehicle owners to pay their share.

"We put a low fee on it that is the equivalent to a 48 mile per gallon vehicle that's on the road now," she said.

That is OK in theory, said Mark Frohnmayer of Arcimoto, an electric car maker in Eugene's Whiteaker neighborhood.

But he said there's nothing in the bill about heavier cars causing more damage.

"The bill doesn't make any notice of that fact," Frohnmayer said, "and I think for it to be a truly appropriate measure it should be scaled by the weight of the vehicle."

Frohnmayer suggested the state not tax electric vehicles that weigh less than 2,000 pounds.

There is no timetable yet on when the electric car mileage tax will be debated. Beyer said the bill still needs a hearing date.