Monday, February 28, 2011

Leaf, Not Volt To Pay Washington State EV Fee

     Doing a bit of investigative journalism over the weekend I decided to take a deeper look into the proposed Washington State EV Fee.  If passed, Senate Bill 5251 would impose a 100 dollar annual fee on all registered electric vehicles that travel over 35 miles per hour.

     There had been some talk on the net as to whether this would apply to the Volt.  The Volt is mainly an electric vehicle that happens to have a gasoline range extender.  Now up until just a few months ago GM had led us to believe the Volt was always powered by electricity, even when the battery had run out.  We all assumed that when the generator kicked on it's sole purpose was to provide electricity to the battery.  Then the battery would continue to supply energy to the Volts electric motor.  If this had turned out to be the case then one could argue the Volt would not be fee exempt.

     To protect the corporations intellectual property, GM kept secret the advanced drivetrain that should eliminate Volts from this particular fee's contention.  Once the battery is drained and the generator/engine has kicked on,  the generator/engine provides electricity via a second smaller generator/electric motor to sustain a minimal state of charge in the battery. However, according to an October 12th article, Lyle Dennis wrote that when the car passes the 70 mph mark and the battery is at the minimum charge level, "the engine becomes coupled with both electric motors and all three work together to turn the driveshaft. Thus the gas engine participates in turning the wheels mechanically although indirectly."

     In this low charge high speed state the Volts main electric motor is the main driver of the car.  However, the direct mechanical connection of the gas engine to the smaller generator which then connects to the driveshaft ads 10 to 20 percent more efficiency.  In short, when the battery is very low the Volt is at least minimally powered directly from gasoline.

     How does this convince me that the Volt will be eliminated from the fee?  Section two paragraph one of the Bill states.

Before accepting an application for a vehicle registration for an electric vehicle that uses propulsion units powered solely by electricity, the department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent appointed by the director shall require the applicant to pay a one hundred dollar fee in addition to any other fees and taxes required by law.

     "Solely by electricity" is the key phrase.  So if this Bill passes in it's current form the Chevy Volt should be excluded.  Whether or not the politicians want the Volt to apply is a mystery.  If they do, they're gonna have to hire an engineer/lawyer to help them decipher how to include this brilliantly designed car.

If you'd like a refresher on how the Volt's drivetrain works here's a link to the Lyle Dennis' explanation at, but make sure to comeback and leave a comment!   Photo borrowed from dherrera_96's at

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  1. Hey now, that's a touch of good news for some folks out there! I think the 'department, county auditor or other agent, or subagent' will have a hard time fitting the Volt into the little box they've made.

    Great work, John!

    NPNS! =D~~~

  2. Thanks a bunch jds_v. I was just proud of myself for actually reading a proposed Bill. Good thing it was short!

  3. I was wondering how they were going to try and figure that out.

  4. Good news for Washington citizens.
    Clearly, by virture of having a gas engine, the Volt is not a pure EV.

  5. Here is an unexpected positive consequence of that initially disappointing revelation of how the engine powers the Volt.

    It's a dark cloud that has no silver lining ...

    On the day when the Volt is capable of pure serial operation (eventually inevitable, in my opinion), will the Volt continue to be exempt from this kind of fee, I wonder?

  6. It's pretty obvious the Volt is capable of being pure electric. It's just more efficient over 70 mph to use this system once the battery is dead. Gm could most likely make the Volt to be a serial hybrid with a simple software change. However the mpg in range extended mode would drop. I don't look at that as a negative but as a positive Jackson.

  7. Apart from Leaf vs Volt, why does Washington State want to impose this additional tax on EVs, but not ICEs? It's obviously not going to raise much money, so presumably the goal is symbolic. However I don't get it.

  8. Your right Rashiid. I think the article is stating that the bill will charge a fee for any vehicle that operates solely on electricity though. So even if a car burned tires in a truckbed and the fire charged a battery and that battery solely powered the car with electricity then that car would have to pay a fee. I guess even if the bill passed and they said the volt is electric citizens could use this phrase "solely electric" as a loophole of sorts.

  9. Mean Cat, I think if politicians can't find new ways to get money from us they feel useless.

  10. Give the states more time, I am sure they will figure out a way to get road taxes from all the EV cars. Some have concern that the "free" charger program is to analyze usage for that purpose. With the Volt being classified as a hybrid, we are probably safe. In California we cannot get the car pool lane sticker or the recharge sticker for the Volt, so don't come to me for EV money unless I get the other stickers!

  11. You read the article about the Volt qualifying for California's top green status, right Mark? I think it's called Better Weather and a Better Warranty, it's up and to the right. But that may be the 2012 or 2013 Volt.

  12. Wonder if they'll change the wording now. Seeing as how the Volt will sell 5 times more than the Leaf and still run mainly on electricity.

  13. Scott, yes, I did read that the newer Volt will be able to get the car pool stickers and the $5000 rebate.

    One solution to increase revenue in California is simple. The DMV could charge $100 a year for the stickers!

  14. What is wrong with the our leaders in Washington state. At a time when they should be giving tax breaks for people willing to try all electric vehicles they are talking about taxing them. There will be so few of these cars on the road that for many years the cost of administering the tax will exceed tax collected. Also the electric vehicles will be helping Washington meet its carbon emission targets. Wake up Washington and take a look at the big picture.

  15. I agree 100 percent.

  16. The very language (purely electric) that exempts the Volt from the EV fee makes it so that the Volt not get a sales tax exemption whereas the Leaf does. I would much rather have the sales tax exemption than the EV fee exemption...

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