It had to happen. State highway maintenance programs are at least partially funded by gasoline taxes. But owners of electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and other alternative-power vehicles pay less in taxes because the vehicles use less, if any, gasoline.
So several states now have imposed fees on some or all those vehicles or are considering doing so to make sure that their owners pay their fair share toward highway maintenance.
It seems hard to argue with that logic because all drivers benefit from properly maintained roads. If anything, drivers of those vehicles may be more dependent on good roads since their vehicles often have low-profile, run-flat tires that are more susceptible to potholes.
At least eight states have introduced bills this year to create taxes or fees on alternative-power vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Three states -- Nebraska, Virginia and Washington -- have enacted the new taxes, ranging from $64 a year in Virginia to $100 in Washington.
Some people in the industry say the fees are unfair to buyers of those vehicles as well as manufacturers and suppliers that have invested in green technology. There is some thought that the annual fees, though seemingly nominal, could inhibit sales.
Sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids do seem price sensitive. Nissan just introduced a low-cost lease for the Leaf, and General Motors is offering rebates on the Chevrolet Volt.
But price sensitivity should not be a factor in whether a state imposes a highway maintenance tax on electrified cars, especially since many of those vehicles still qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 to shore up sales.
Ultimately, state legislatures must decide whether the relatively small amount of tax revenue collected in the name of fairness is more important than whatever benefits there may be from having EVs, plug-in hybrids and related vehicles on the road.