Georgia bills address electric vehicles’ future

A state House committee Wednesday approved a bill that would allow businesses to sell electricity by the kilowatt hour — a small step toward a future likely to be dominated by electric vehicles.

House Bill 406 also would create regulations for electric-vehicle chargers similar to those that now govern gasoline pumps. And it would pave the way for a future tax on electricity for automobiles that could gradually replace revenue from motor fuel taxes, which pay for road construction and maintenance.

It’s one of a slew of electric-vehicle bills competing for lawmakers’ attention. Others would seek to prohibit electric utilities from gaining an unfair advantage in the vehicle-charging market, penalize owners who leave their vehicles at charging stations too long and revoke Tesla’s ability to sell vehicles directly to consumers without going through independent dealers.

The bills come as Georgia and other states reckon with the expected transition from gasoline-powered to electric-powered vehicles in coming decades. The number of electric vehicles on American roads is expected to rise from about 3 million in 2021 to 48 million in 2030, a consultant told Georgia lawmakers last year. In eight years, they will account for nearly 15% of all vehicles.

That transition poses challenges ranging from how to provide enough chargers to accommodate all those vehicles to how the state pays for road and bridge construction.

A legislative panel spent months studying those issues last year. Though it didn’t answer every question, some of its recommendations are included in HB 406 and in the nearly identical Senate Bill 146.

To encourage businesses to install vehicle chargers, the measures would allow businesses to sell electricity by the kilowatt hour — a right usually limited to utilities. Currently, businesses that provide chargers rent the spaces by the hour or the minute.

The bills also would delegate the task of inspecting and regulating vehicle chargers to the state Department of Agriculture. The agency already licenses and inspects gasoline pumps — ensuring, for example, that customers get the amount of fuel they pay for.

The bills also would establish a regulatory framework for taxing the electricity sold at vehicle-charging stations, but they would not establish such a tax.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will conduct a voluntary pilot study this year to help determine the best way to tax vehicle electricity. Currently, Georgia charges a flat annual fee of about $211 for electric vehicles.

The method of taxing electric vehicles may determine how the state pays for road construction as gasoline-powered vehicles gradually disappear in coming decades. Motor fuel taxes currently pay for billions of dollars of road construction in Georgia.

One difference between HB 406 and SB 146: The House bill would eliminate the sunset of a law that adjusts the current state motor fuel tax for inflation each year. That provision of state law is set to expire in July 2025. Under the House bill, the motor fuel tax would continue to be tied to inflation after 2025.

The House Technology and Infrastructure Innovation Committee approved HB 406 on Wednesday. It now goes to the Rules Committee, which will determine whether it receives a vote by the full House.

Other bills pending in the General Assembly also address issues involving electric vehicles:

  • House Bill 307 would allow the sale of electricity by the kilowatt hour. But it also would prohibit electric utilities from owning or operating publicly available vehicle-charging equipment beginning in 2026. The utility could establish a separate company to own and operate the equipment.

The bill also would prohibit utilities from recovering from ratepayers the cost of installing electric-vehicle charging stations in most circumstances. It seeks to address the concerns of convenience stores that utilities could gain an unfair advantage in the electric-vehicle charging market.

  • Senate Bill 167 closely mirrors HB 307.
  • Senate Resolution 137 would urge electric utilities to establish neutral pricing for the sale of electricity for vehicle charging, regardless of who’s buying it.
  • Senate Bill 72 would impose a $100 fine for motorists who park at a charging station unless they’re actively charging their vehicle.
  • Senate Bill 184 would strip Tesla of its ability to sell electric vehicles directly to consumers without going through an independent dealership. Currently, it’s the only auto company that can bypass independent dealerships in the state.

As more electric-vehicle manufacturing comes to Georgia, those companies are expected to press for direct sales. But politically powerful car dealers oppose the move, saying customer service will suffer without local dealerships.