Author: Elizabeth Hicks

Nebraska should end these in-state obstacles to electric vehicle progress

One of the core components of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is adequately preparing the country for the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. The Biden administration has earmarked $174 billion for transportation electrification, which has sparked a flurry of investment from auto manufacturers.

GM announced they will be opening a $2.3 billion plant in 2023 to manufacture 500,000 EV batteries, Honda has committed to sell only EVs by 2040, Hyundai will invest $7 billion for U.S. EV production, and Ford has announced that half of all Lincolns produced could soon be emissionless. Even here in Nebraska, EV consumers communities like Norfolk and Kearney are building out their charging stations.

But unfortunately for consumers in Nebraska, poor policy at the state level is acting as a major hurdle. Nebraska, who currently ranks tied for last in the U.S. Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, is actively discouraging the purchase of EVs with their ban on direct-to-consumer sales, and their disproportionate licensing fee for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Under the guise of consumer protection, Nebraska has made it illegal for electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla, to sell directly to consumers. Dealer franchise laws, which ban direct sale, are a decades-old policy implemented to protect consumers from vertical integration and monopolization. In today’s age of limitless information at your fingertips, and healthy competition in the auto industry, this restriction is far past its expiration date. It does nothing but impede consumer choice while providing no consumer protection value. That’s why many EV manufacturers have opted out of the dealership model entirely. And, we know from the success of direct-to-consumer platforms in the used car market (where direct sale is legal) that online purchasing is on the rise.

Beyond the ban on direct-sales, Nebraska also punishes EV consumers with higher license and registration fees. The standard registration fee for vehicles in Nebraska is between $15. For consumers making the eco-conscious choice to buy and register an EV, the registration cost is over 500% higher, at $75. This is incredibly discriminatory, and a much better approach would be to simply treat EVs on par with standard passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, some legislators have justified the additional fee to help recover lost gas tax revenue, but that runs counter to the purpose of gas taxes. The purpose of the gas tax, currently at 28.7 cents per gallon in Nebraska, is to encourage consumers to reduce their emissions, which is exactly what EV consumers are doing when they purchase an EV. It’s strange that the reward EV consumers get for their eco-friendly decision is inflated fees exponentially higher than the alternative. It is unfair that these consumers now shoulder more of the financial burden when they are, in fact, responding to gas taxes as intended by the tax.

On top of being relatively easy to implement, these policy changes have the added benefit of encouraging EV purchases without taxpayer manufacturing subsidies, or complicated tax credits, which have rightfully been criticized for favoring the wealthy.

At the end of the day the EV revolution is well on its way. By simply getting out of the way, legislators in Nebraska could enhance consumer choice, lower costs, protect the environment, and do so without all of the logistical issues that come with corporate welfare and boutique tax credits.

As the famous idiom goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The tide is certainly rising for electric vehicles, but with misguided regulations handcuffing consumers, Nebraskans may end up watching from the shore line.

Originally published here.

Alabamians may not share in the electric vehicle revolution

One of the core components of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is adequately preparing the country for the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. The Biden Administration has earmarked $174 billion for transportation electrification, which has sparked a flurry of investment from auto manufacturers.

GM announced they will open a $2.3 billion plant in 2023 to manufacture 500,000 EV batteries, Honda has committed to only sell EVs by 2040, Hyundai will invest $7 billion for US EV production, and Ford has announced that half of all Lincoln vehicles produced could soon be emissionless. Even here in Alabama, Mercedes has committed to hiring an additional 400 workers at its Tuscaloosa County plant to keep pace with the demand for EVs

But unfortunately for consumers in Alabama, poor policy at the state level is acting as a major hurdle for the EV boom. Alabama, which currently ranks tied for last in the US Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index, is actively discouraging the purchase of EVs with their ban on direct-to-consumer sales, and their disproportionate licensing fee for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Under the guise of consumer protection, Alabama has made it illegal for electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla, to sell directly to consumers. Dealer franchise laws, which ban direct sales, are a decades-old policy implemented to protect consumers from vertical integration and monopolization. In today’s age of limitless information at your fingertips, and healthy competition in the auto industry, this restriction is far past its expiration date. It does nothing but impede consumer choice while providing no consumer protection value.

That’s why many EV manufacturers have opted out of the dealership model entirely. Due to the innovative nature of electric vehicles, a traditional franchised dealership model may not be the most effective way to get these eco-friendly vehicles to market. Operating a stand-alone dealership increases costs, and adds a middle-man to the sale process, which can often inflate prices for consumers. And, we know from the success of direct-to-consumer platforms in the used car market (where direct sale is legal), that online purchasing is on the rise.

Beyond the ban on direct-sales, Alabama also punishes EV consumers with higher license and registration fees. The standard registration fee for vehicles in Alabama is $65. For consumers making the eco-conscious choice to buy and register an EV, the registration cost is over 300% higher at $265. This is incredibly discriminatory, and a much better approach would be to simply treat EVs on par with standard gas-powered vehicles.

Unfortunately, some legislators have justified the additional fee to help recover lost gas tax revenue, but that runs counter to the purpose of gas taxes. The purpose of the gas tax, currently at 26 cents per gallon in Alabama, is to encourage consumers to reduce their emissions, which is exactly what EV consumers are doing when they purchase an EV. It’s strange that the reward EV consumers get for their eco-friendly decision is inflated fees exponentially higher than the alternative. It is unfair that these consumers now shoulder more of the financial burden when they are in fact responding to gas taxes as intended.

On top of being relatively easy to implement, these policy changes have the added benefit of encouraging EV purchases without taxpayer manufacturing subsidies, or complicated tax credits, which have rightfully been criticized for favoring the wealthy.

At the end of the day, the EV revolution is well on its way. By simply getting out of the way, legislators in Alabama could enhance consumer choice, lower costs, protect the environment, and do so without all of the logistical and ideological issues that come with corporate welfare and boutique tax credits.

As the famous idiom goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. The tide is certainly rising for electric vehicles, but with misguided regulations handcuffing consumers, Alabamians may end up watching from the shores.

Originally published here.

Opinion: Iowa shouldn’t be last in access to electric vehicles

The tide is certainly rising for electric vehicles, but with misguided regulations handcuffing consumers, Iowans may end up watching from the shore line.

A major component of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is adequately preparing the country for the electric vehicle, or EV, revolution. The Biden administration earmarked $174 billion for transportation electrification, sparking a flurry of investment from auto manufacturers.

GM announced it’ll be opening a $2.3 billion plant in 2023 to manufacture 500,000 EV batteries, Honda committed to sell only EVs by 2040, Hyundai will invest $7 billion for US EV production, and Ford announced that half of all Lincolns produced could soon be emissionless. Even here in Iowa, EV consumers can now charge their vehicles for free at the famous World’s Largest Truck Stop on Interstate Highway 80.

Unfortunately for Iowan consumers, poor policy at the state level has created a major hurdle. Iowa, which currently ranks tied for last in the US Electric Vehicle Accessibility Index produced by our organization, the Consumer Choice Center, is actively discouraging the purchase of EVs with a ban on direct-to-consumer sales and disproportionate registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Under the guise of consumer protection, Iowa made it illegal for electric vehicle manufacturers, like Tesla, to sell directly to consumers. Dealer franchise laws, which ban direct sales, are antiquated policies implemented to protect consumers from vertical integration and monopolization. With today’s digital economy and healthy competition within the auto industry, this restriction is far past its expiration date as it limits consumer choice while providing no consumer protection value.

That’s why many EV manufacturers have opted out of the dealership model entirely. Operating stand-alone dealerships increases costs and adds a middle-man into the sale process, often inflating prices for consumers. And, we know from the success of direct-to-consumer platforms in the used car market that online purchasing is on the rise.

Beyond the direct-sales ban, Iowa punishes EV consumers with higher registration fees. Consumers making the eco-conscious choice with EVs must currently pay the standard registration fee as well as an additional fee of $97.50, although that fee will increase to $130 on Jan. 1, 2022. This is incredibly discriminatory; a better approach would be to simply treat EVs on par with standard passenger vehicles.

Unfortunately, some legislators have justified the additional fee to help recover lost gas tax revenue. The purpose of the gas tax, currently at 32 cents per gallon in Iowa, is to encourage consumers to reduce their emissions. It’s unfortunate that the reward EV consumers get for their eco-friendly decision is inflated registration fees that shoulder more of the financial burden when they are in fact responding to the gas tax as intended.

These policy changes are easy to implement and have the benefit of encouraging EV purchases without taxpayer manufacturing subsidies or complicated tax credits, which have rightfully been criticized for favoring the wealthy.

The EV revolution is here, and by simply getting out of the way, legislators in Iowa could enhance consumer choice, lower costs, protect the environment, and do so without all of the logistical issues that come with corporate welfare and boutique tax credits.

As the famous idiom goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The tide is certainly rising for electric vehicles, but with misguided regulations handcuffing consumers, Iowans may end up watching from the shore line.

Originally published here.

Biden’s broadband plan may hurt providers, consumers

It is no secret that access to reliable, high-speed internet is more important now than ever before, especially given how we spent this past year. We now rely heavily on virtual connections for school, work and perhaps a few never-ending Netflix marathons in an attempt to stay sane throughout lockdowns.

With a more online life, it’s not surprising that broadband usage increased 40% over the last year. Many suspect this level of demand for broadband will continue, but there are millions of individuals across the country who do not yet have access, including 368,000 rural Michigan households.

It’s estimated that there is over $2.5 billion in potential economic benefit that is lost among Michigan residents disconnected from the internet, making it clear that we need to find a solution to end this digital divide.

President Joe Biden recently proposed $100 billion to expand broadband through the American Jobs Plan. While this may seem like a worthy infrastructural investment to some, the fine print of the plan proposes lackluster solutions that create a stormy future for Michigan consumers.

A glaring issue is the prioritization of government-run broadband networks with “less pressure to turn profits and with a commitment to serving entire communities.” It’s well documented that these networks are ineffective 𑁋 a Phoenix Center study found that prices in markets with a municipal provider are higher than those in markets without one.

Michigan allows municipal broadband networks only in unserved or underserved areas and if their benefits outweigh the costs. However, local governments have been giving municipal networks advantages over private providers by providing subsidies and privileged regulatory treatment to showcase the illusion of compliance.

This happened recently in Marshall, and the results were dreadful. According to a report released by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance highlighting failed government-run broadband networks, Marshall’s fiber broadband network, called FiberNet, cost $3.1 million and serves only a fraction of its population. It’s worth noting that private broadband services are also available in Marshall.

Another key issue with Biden’s plan is that it exclusively prioritizes building out fiber broadband. While fiber may be a great option for some, it’s not always practical for rural communities due to the high costs and installation process required. Rural households can be located miles apart, and with fiber installation costing as high as $27,000/per mile, the estimated demand from rural communities often does not offset the costs of building fiber networks in those areas.

Innovative solutions like Elon Musk’s Starlink project, which aims to provide low-cost satellite broadband internet access across the globe, should be encouraged. By the end of this year, there will be over 1,000 satellites providing internet to more than 10,000 customers worldwide through Starlink. This is an exciting development because satellite networks are often cheaper, more efficient and can provide faster speeds to rural households than fiber.

The final major issue with Biden’s plan is that it vows to get America to 100% broadband coverage, but this doesn’t take into account all consumer preferences. According to Pew Research, 15% of Americans rely on smartphones and don’t have broadband services. Although it’s not certain as to why, one potential reason is the frequency of free Wi-Fi available in many public spaces which may result in some households opting out of paying for broadband.

To help Michigan live up to its full economic potential, it’s crucial that we get the 368,000 rural households access to high speed internet quickly. The state should embrace private internet service providers, practice technology neutrality by not favoring one broadband type over another and encourage more innovations that benefit consumers.

Originally published here.

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