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.