Should Virginia Rebuff the HUF?

Rav4 hybrid — paying its fair share

by Bill Tracy

There’s a new Virginia tax called a HUF — for Highway Use Fee.

Who knew? Not me — until I had to pay it.

If you renew your Virginia vehicle registration, and your car exceeds a 25 miles-per-gallon EPA rating, you will be politely advised that you are underpaying pump taxes, and to be fair, you will be assessed an extra fee. In my case, I owed an extra $35 taxes because my new RAV4 Hybrid gets 40 MPG.

Because my wife and I do not put on many miles in retirement, and with COVID, that means I probably now pay a little more combined Virginia pump tax with my RAV4 Hybrid than I would with a non-hybrid RAV4. Not to mention significantly more annual car tax to Fairfax County.

I have mixed emotions. I am pleased that we are not singling out hybrids for punishment like many Red states are doing. In Virginia’s case, apparently, anyone with a car over 25 MPG owes a new fee out of “fairness.” (Fairness to who — the conservatives?)

I have discussed a system just  like this on Bacon’s Rebellion many times. I did not say it was better, I said it was not prejudiced as long as hybrids are not selectively punished. I was aware, some years ago, that New Hampshire had proposed such system, but the last I heard N.H. was not able to get it passed.

The use fee doesn’t cut any slack for electric vehicles. So, could Virginia be the only state with a de facto Miles Driven tax? 

Here is a shortened version of the text when you renew your registration on-line.

Va. Code §§ 46.2-770, § 46.2-771, and § 46.2-772

The purpose of the highway use fee is to ensure a more fair contribution to the Commonwealth Transportation Fund from fuel-efficient and electric vehicles using highways in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Transportation Fund is funded, in part, by motor fuels taxes. The highway use fee is effective July 1, 2020, and will be updated on a yearly basis.

“Fuel-efficient vehicles” are defined as vehicles that have a combined fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (MPG) or greater, while, “electric motor vehicles” are defined to mean vehicles that use electricity as the only source of motive power

Electric vehicles are required to pay a fixed highway use fee, which is currently $88.20, to reflect the amount in fuels taxes electric vehicles will not pay during a single year due to not purchasing motor fuel.

Bill Tracy, a retired engineer, lives in Northern Virginia.