Soon Missourians will pay more at the pump to increase funding for roads and bridges across the state, while $1 million is being allocated in the state budget to fund electric vehicle charging stations in state parks.
The Department of Natural Resources is not releasing details about the new program, so its impact on Missouri's transportation funding — which is among the weakest in the country — is unknown.
Miranda Fredrick, the spokeswoman for DNR's state parks division, said plans for the charging stations are still in the initial stages of development, so no specific details were available.
Currently, Missouri State Parks visitors can use their own equipment and charge electric vehicles for up to an hour for a $5 charge. Colorado is installing charging stations in each of its state parks, and West Virginia provides electric vehicle charging for free in some of its state parks.
DNR is currently funding nine electric vehicle charging stations across the state through its Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure program. It is funded by Volkswagen's Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund settlement from "Dieselgate," the scandal in which the German car company was caught installing software in its vehicles that tricked emissions tests to make some of its diesel vehicles appear to be more environmentally friendly.
DNR opened the program's first electric vehicle charging station in Kingdom City last month. Eight other stations across the state are progressing toward completion, and DNR plans to eventually have a total of 13 sites.
Like a gas station, pricing is determined by each stations' owner. Unlike a gas station, no portion of those fees goes to transportation funding, Missouri Department of Transportation spokeswoman Linda Horn said.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are 6,740 electric vehicles in Missouri, and about 3 percent of vehicles in the U.S. are electric. Since electric vehicle drivers do not pay the fuel tax, they pay an alternative fuel decal fee of $75 annually.
U.S. Department of Transportation data shows Missourians drive an average of about 18,000 miles a year. If a Missourian drives an average vehicle with average fuel efficiency, they are contributing about $180 annually to MoDOT's funding. If that Missourian drives a less efficient car, such as a 2021 GMC Sierra with a V8 engine, that contribution jumps to about $225 a year, which is triple the amount electric vehicle drivers are paying in alternative fuel decal fees.
Missouri has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the country, despite having one of the largest state highway systems. This leads to funding woes for MoDOT, but the recent signing of Senate Bill 262 will increase transportation fees to bring in more revenue. The fuel tax will be increased by more than 70 percent over the next five years, while alternative fuel decal fees are only being raised 20 percent in the same time period.
Horn said MoDOT has been investigating the impacts of electric vehicles over the past four years. With electric vehicles circumventing payment of the fuel tax, some see the rise of electric vehicles as a threat to transportation funding. In response, SB 262 established the Electric Vehicle Task Force, which will study electric vehicles' impact on transportation funding and deliver a report to the Legislature and the governor.
This article was edited at 4:05 a.m. Aug. 1, 2021, to eliminate an incorrect characterization of the source of funding for the charging stations in the headline and opening sentence. This fifth paragraph was edited at 12:45 p.m. Aug. 3, 2021, to further clarify that the DNR is funding the nine electric vehicle charging stations to be built.