LIMA — It’s not news that Allen County roads have been steadily degrading.
“We sound like a broken record here,” County Roadway Engineer David Louth said. “The cost of maintaining the roads rises with the increasing cost of petroleum and asphalt. The labor rates are increasing while our budget relatively stays the same.”
Yet on the horizon, another infrastructure funding concern is coming down the line — a car that doesn’t pay as much for infrastructure improvements because it doesn’t pay gas tax.
Electric vehicles may be available today, but they still remain in a minority because of Ohio’s small supply, a low inventory of charging stations, and upfront costs that intimidate most consumers. Those obstacles will hinder the electric vehicle industry for a time, but eventually, Allen County will have to pay for its roads without its primary source of income unless changes are made.
Clean Fuels Ohio Executive Director Sam Spofforth said a few different funding situations have been considered as electric vehicles grow in popularity. The first is restructuring infrastructure funding to include a by-the-mile tax that both gas and electric cars would pay. Vehicles already track miles driven. With the addition of GPS and smart tracking, an additional layer of information could determine where and how each vehicle is used. Tax could then be charged accordingly.
A second option would be to record electricity use through smart electric chargers, which is already being done. SemaConnect, the manufacturer of the charger that sits outside of the Dunkin Donuts on Cable Road, provides a network service that monitors the health of the station and tracks the amount of charge used by each car owner, which can then be charged to individual accounts. Since the technology is already in place, Ohio could include a tax on charging just as they do on those purchasing gas.
Customer Account Manager Alyssa Holleran said charging station owners who buy from SemaConnect can currently decide whether they wish to make the charger publicly available and whether they wish to charge users.
The final option would be a flat increase in licensure permit fees, which would apply to every vehicle no matter how much it is driven, which Spofforth said may be unfair for some drivers. The county is considering such an increase — currently set for $5 or $10 — depending on the public response. The increase is set to raise an additional $750,000 per year to be used on county infrastructure.
Spofforth said the electric vehicle industry is hesitant about pushing for additional taxes on electricity so as not to disincentivize electric vehicle purchases. Only half a percent of automobiles on the road currently are electric vehicles.
“We want to do it the smart way,” Spofforth said. “Obviously, it’s going to have to happen at some point, but not today.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.