To prepare for a more resilient future, Hawaii, along with many other states, is looking for equitable, fiscally reliable and long-term ways to pay for the safety, upkeep and improvement of our roads and bridges. The method we currently use, the gas tax, is no longer a reliable source of funding as automakers make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks and environmentally friendly electric and hybrid vehicles.
Using a federal grant, in 2018, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) started a community outreach and demonstration project to explore the viability of replacing the gas tax with a Hawaii road usage charge (RUC), which is based on paying for the miles you drive.
Community input was gathered through focus groups, telephone surveys and a series of
community and stakeholder meetings held throughout the Hawaii islands. A customized driving report was sent to more than 350,000 drivers, and volunteers participated in a pilot project where they chose one of three different technologies to report the miles they drove and provided feedback on their experience. They received reports comparing what they paid in gas taxes and what they would have paid per mile driven.
If you are interested in seeing the difference in costs for you, check out our online estimater tool.
The results of community outreach and feedback in Hawaii, the largest demonstration of a road usage charge in the United States, form the recommendations in the final report.
What’s Next? HDOT Recommends:
Given the fast pace of EV and hybrid vehicle adoption in Hawaii, HDOT recommends moving forward with a minimally disruptive transition to road usage charging for EVs without delay.
However, HDOT recommends a gradual transition from the gas tax to a road usage charge, allowing time for further development and improvement of systems for collecting this new fee.
The fee would be assessed using the state’s existing vehicle inspection program for mileage collection and data collection, creating a seamless experience for residents and minimizing cost to HDOT.
The recommended first step is assessing a RUC on EVs in lieu of the existing flat fee of $50 per year EV owners now pay. The RUC would be based on a per-mile rate equal to what the average gas vehicle pays, roughly $0.80 cents per mile, or about $70 per year. The maximum amount an EV driver would pay in RUC each year would be capped at the amount an average vehicle pays in Hawaii state gas tax.
Using federal funds for up to 70 to 80 percent of the cost, HDOT will continue the conversation and work with stakeholders, partner agencies and the public to fully establish the program.