Sat 24 Jan 2009
Image via WikipediaAs an update related to my earlier post on the Oregon idea for a mileage tax in place of the gasoline tax: Here’s a case where the model of cost-per-mile could actually make sense – but not as a road-maintenance related tax. Instead, this furthers the green and energy independence aspects that the mileage tax would discourage. In this case, the cost per-mile concept underlies a quicker shift by consumers to electric vehicles. Better Place is working on transforming the auto market to work more like the communications industry, where the consumer pays for service/minutes – in this case miles. In doing so, it looks to shift a major expense factor of EVs to being acquired over time – not altogether different from the way we buy fuel for our gas powered cars over time – not all at once. (I’m calling the auto industry under this scenario the “commutications industry.”)
In addition to looking to make charging ports ubiquitous, for topping-off the battery whenever parked, the concept involves battery swapping stations, whereby drivers would pull in when they need a fill-up, and rather than charging the battery that is in their car, a hot one would be swapped in on the fly – in the time that it would take for an ordinary gas fill-up. The batteries in this case would not be owned by the consumer, but would be part of the subscription or service plan.
Circling back to a point that I made in the earlier post – different cars have different levels of economy/efficiency – so owners of lower economy cars should bear some added cost, beyond just per-mile. This can’t just be a matter of how much juice is used, since some batteries will have better retention / performance – and these being the property of the company… (well, you get the point).
Service can manifest in a range of ways – from people getting the service for a car they themselves purchase, to cars being provided as part of the service (much like a free phone provided under a phone service plan). Interestingly, Better Place is also pushing governments to require participants in this market to comply with standards – so from the beginning, there won’t be competing standards (e.g. HD vs Blu-ray) which could delay our reaching energy independence by slowing adoption while people wait to see which standard would take.
None of this solves Oregon’s road maintenance revenue issue. In fact it underscores the problem. Increasing the gas tax, though, would keep the pedal to the metal (so to speak) in driving (pun intended) out gas engines there. If the Better Place service providers do master mileage metering however, that could address the technical issues behind the proposed tax, and serve as a substitute once the gas guzzlers are all gone.