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More efficient vehicles would pay a sliding fee to compensate for paying less gas tax under a bill going through the Legislature, which would start adding the penalty to vehicles getting as little as 21 mpg.

The bill passed the House floor, 194-143, last Thursday and is now being considered by the House Finance Committee. Fees would be highest for the most-fuel efficient vehicles, as the bill establishes a variable charge as high as $111 for electric vehicles, down to zero for vehicles that get less than 20 mpg.

It differs from laws in many other states that place a flat fee on all electric or hybrid vehicles. A separate bill before the House Public Works and Highways Committee would do just that, adding $100 to the annual registration fee for all hybrid vehicles and $200 to all electric vehicles.

The motivation behind the various pieces of legislation is concern about how to pay to maintain roads and highways. For decades, road-repair money in New Hampshire and elsewhere has largely come from state and federal gasoline taxes, on top of fixed registration fees. This means that the more a vehicle drives, the more its owner pays in gas tax, acting as a proxy for how much wear they caused on the roads.

The arrival of efficient vehicles using less gasoline – and now electric cars that use no gasoline at all – has upended this calculation, prompting the state to find new ways to bring road upkeep money in line with drivers’ road usage.

The $111 figure in House Bill 1763 is the calculated amount that a 20-mpg vehicle would pay into the fund used to maintain New Hampshire highways if it drove 10,000 miles in a year. This charge would be paid on top of annual vehicle registration and kept in a separate fund for highway upkeep.

The amount paid by a vehicle would depend on its EPA-rated mileage. Vehicles that get better than 20 mpg would pay a small portion of the $111 figure, while vehicles with higher mileage would pay a larger portion, up to the full $111 charge for electric vehicles. Details of the specific charges are not included in the bill.

The bill says implementing the program would cost an estimated $330,000, partly for equipment to connect local registrars’ offices with official EPA mpg ratings.

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