Depending on your viewpoint, electric motorcycles are either necessary or just another fad.  But many OEM manufacturers are embracing electric mobility.  And that includes motorcycle manufacturers.

Electric incentives

The growth of the electric mobility industry likely has something to do with the fact that many countries are incentivizing the use of electrically powered vehicles.  Governments are offering companies tax breaks to build factories.  They are also offering income tax breaks to individuals who purchase electrically driven vehicles.  There are governmental perks, including free charging, parking, and the use of “carpool” lanes for electric vehicles.

Electric perks

While those perks are nice, what will happen after electric vehicles become mainstream and internal combustion power joins the dinosaurs in extinction?  Perhaps there’s a clue in what some Australian governments are doing with electrically powered motorcycles.  Mark Hinchliffe of Motorbikewriter.com provides a look into some aspects of electric motorcycling that could either be frightening or appropriate.  It may even be that you think some aspects are good while others could be an infringement of your rights.  Read on to see whether you are on the fence or either side.

electric tax

The Zero DSR Black Forest electric motorcycle.

Taxing electric mobility

Hinchcliffe tells the stories of two separate Australian states, South Australia and Victoria.  The most recent change comes from Victoria state.  Victorian riders traveling 20,000 km (about 12,500 miles) per year will pay an AUD 500 (about $380) annual tax for the privilege of riding on Australian roads.

South Australia also has a system that includes a fixed annual tax on top of registering the electrically powered machine.  Potentially more concerning is the fact that the system will also impose a “distance-traveled” charge of 2.5 cents per kilometer.  Thus the system forces riders to maintain a logbook or provide an odometer reading during each annual registration.  And Hinchcliffe says that the state of New South Wales and other Australian states are expected to follow the per kilometer tax moves.

Funding road maintenance and infrastructure

Australian motorists now pay a fuel excise tax of about 42 Australian cents per liter of fuel.  That’s roughly AUD 1.65 per US gallon.  Currently, the US Federal Government imposes an 18 cent excise tax on each gallon of gasoline sold.  But other significant taxes vary state by state.  For instance, Missouri imposes a tax of about 18 cents per gallon, while California imposes a 62 cents per gallon tax.

Regardless of the amounts of tax the states impose, there will need to be a way to cover the costs associated with road maintenance and infrastructure development and improvement.  And that’s where this conundrum begins.  How will the federal and state governments pay for these things if internal combustion engine power stops?

Supporters

As you might imagine, there are supporters and opponents to the taxing of electric mobility.  Dennis Savic, the founder of Australian electric motorcycle manufacturer Savic Motorcycles, thinks that the taxes may be necessary.

“If everyone moves to electric, the question is how we will pay for new roads and road maintenance?  Implementing a new tax that replaces the old one like-for-like is one solution.” – Dennis Savic, Savic Motorcycles founder.

Opponents

But others aren’t so supportive, at least not now.  Chief Executive Tony Weber of the Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries thinks it’s too early to impose taxes on electric mobility.  He believes that it does not make sense to apply the taxes to zero-emission vehicles now “as these technologies are still in their infancy and account for a relatively small portion of vehicle sales across Australia.”

“Right now, Governments should be encouraging the uptake of these technologies with positive policy initiatives particularly around emissions targets, infrastructure development and appropriate incentives for fleets and private consumers rather than introducing charges that potentially reduce the incentive for these customers to buy these vehicles.” – Tony Weber Chief Executive of the Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries

Further, Weber says that a nationally consistent approach to future road user charging should be introduced to provide clarity and consistency across Australia.  He doesn’t like that there could be a potential for different approaches across each Australian state.  Summing the tax situation up, Weber said:

“There is no doubt that Governments must consider future revenue streams to ensure continuing investment in road and transport infrastructure. The automotive sector is wanting to be a part of those discussions to support positive outcomes driven by efficiency and effectiveness for all stakeholders. However, at current volumes, the funds raised through this proposed legislation will be minimal.”

“Until zero and low emission vehicles become more mature technologies, Governments should be avoiding the temptation to subject them to new taxes and charges that impact on their acceptance from consumers.  Advanced economies across the world are finding ways to encourage and incentivise the introduction of these vehicles rather than introducing charges that are barriers to their market growth.”

What’s your point of view?

So, where do you stand on the taxation of electrically powered motorcycles?  How and when should the government require electric vehicles to pay for road and infrastructure maintenance and improvements?  Is a per-mile-ridden tax appropriate, or should the revenue be obtained by other means?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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