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Oklahoma EV drivers will soon pay into transportation tax

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Kimberly James | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) – People who own electric vehicles will likely have to pay a new tax to help support the state's transportation infrastructure.

The Oklahoma Senate approved the Driving on Road Infrastructure with Vehicles of Electricity Act of 2021. The DRIVE Act, House Bill 2234, helps to ensure that electric vehicle owners contribute to the state's transportation infrastructure just like traditional gasoline-based vehicle owners. The law would create a registration fee and a public-recharging tax.

“EV advocates, industry, and the policy community locally have opposed these in the past, but the consensus among most of us this year was that we needed to settle the issue so we can move on to other conversations to move the needle on EVs in a more positive way," Adriane Jaynes, coordinator for Tulsa Area Clean Cities, told The Center Square.

One version or another of this bill has been presented to the legislature for the past four years. Through this session, legislators expressed their intention that this is a fair tax, simply a way for EV drivers to pay into road maintenance.

“Significant improvements were made to HB 2234 via a companion bill, SB 600, which passed this week," Eric Pollard, of Central Oklahoma Clean Cities, said. "Key amendments included in SB 600 are exemption for all chargers capable of charging at 50kW or less, free charging is exempt, and charging providers are given more flexibly in how they collect and remit the tax.”

Jaynes and Pollard lead the Oklahoma EV Coalition, a statewide working group of entities with an interest in transportation electrification.

The Oklahoma EV Coalition said there are two tax mechanisms at work in the DRIVE Act – the annual registration fee and the tax at public charges. Oklahomans can deduct the tax they pay at in-state chargers on their income taxes to avoid double taxation. The legislative intent was for out-of-state EV drivers to pay the charger tax, just as they would the gas tax. Oklahomans will pay via the annual registration fee.

“Oklahoma has had a tax incentive for public charging for years," Jaynes said. "We have one of the best EV charging networks in the country with fast EV charging approximately every 50 miles on our highways and interstates. By our count late last year, Oklahoma has more fast charging per capita than all but one other state.”