The emergence of electric vehicles in the U.S. is on a fast track and so are pilot technology projects to automatically collect fees from EVs and gas-powered vehicles to pay for roads and bridges in coming decades.
At the same time President Biden wants half of all new passenger vehicle sales to be EVs by 2030, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill that recently passed the U.S. Senate calls for setting up a program to “test the feasibility of a road usage fee.”
In the future, EVs and gas-powered vehicle diagnostic units could instantly tabulate road usage fees and charge a credit card via a smartphone for automatic payment to Uncle Sam or another government entity.
The idea behind a national Road User Charge (RUC), also known as Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) payment system, is to collect billions of dollars in coming years from vehicle users to maintain the long-term solvency of the federal Highway Trust Fund, first created in 1986. That fund is primarily used for highway and bridge construction and maintenance as well as mass transit.
The Trust Fund now relies on a gas excise tax collected when gas is sold at the pump, but as more EVs emerge there will be less gas pumped and less tax collected since EVs will rely on charging stations or electric charging at a home or business. The need for an alternative to the gradually declining gas tax is a seemingly obvious reality, but one that transportation policymakers have been grappling with for at least the last decade.