What to know about a proposed Wisconsin tax on electric vehicle chargers

The measure aims to expand the state's network of EV charging stations.

January 16, 2024, 5:15 PM

Electric vehicle charging stations could spring up at gas stations and grocery stores throughout Wisconsin, after the state Senate passed a proposed bill on Tuesday.

The bill, which passed by a 30-2 vote, would ease restrictions on businesses that install chargers and impose a tax on electricity sold to electric vehicle owners.

The measure would also make Wisconsin eligible for nearly $80 million in federal funds for the installation of charging stations and other electric vehicle infrastructure.

Here's what to know about the proposed expansion of charging stations and what happens next with the bill:

What does the tax aim to accomplish?

The number of electric vehicles registered in Wisconsin has exploded in recent years.

The state counted roughly 17,000 electric vehicles last year; that was up from some 3,500 electric vehicles registered in Wisconsin four years prior, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

In turn, some lawmakers want to expand the state's network of charging stations in order to accommodate the uptick in drivers.

Currently, businesses that offer EV charging stations fall under a set of regulations that typically apply to utilities.

The proposed bill would exempt the businesses from such rules as long as they sell electricity based on the amount that customer receives instead of the duration of time spent occupying a charger.

This approach would allow the state to impose a tax on the amount of electricity sold to customers.

How would the tax on electric charging stations work?

The tax would slap a 3-cent levy on each kilowatt hour of electricity sold to a vehicle owner.

Electric vehicle chargers are categorized as level 1, level 2 or level 3, meaning a first-level machine charges the slowest while a third-level one charges the fastest. All existing level 1 and level 2 charges would be exempt from the tax, but it would apply to all new chargers, as well as pre-existing level 3 chargers.

A Tesla Model 3, for instance, carries a battery capacity of 50 kilowatt hours. The tax for a full charge of the vehicle would amount to $1.50.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers speaks with The Associated Press in his state Capitol office in Madison, Wis. office, Jan. 3, 2024.
Todd Richmond/AP

By comparison, the average cost to fully charge a medium-sized electric vehicle in Wisconsin is currently $11.11, according to an analysis by electric infrastructure developer Enel X Way.

If the bill is passed, the tax is expected to generate $3.1 million in fiscal year 2025, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said. That revenue would go to infrastructure projects like roads and bridges.

State Assembly Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, a backer of the measure, said the tax aims to make up for an expected decline in funds generated by the state's fuel tax, according to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, ABC affiliate WQOW.

The tax, Andraca added, risks burdening electric vehicle drivers with onerous costs.

"I do hope that at some point we will address the problem that we are over-taxing drivers of electric vehicles," Andraca told WQOW.

What happens next?

After passing in the Wisconsin Senate, the bill will now head to the state Assembly for a vote.

It is unclear whether Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will sign the bill if it passes both houses. Roughly a year ago, Evers touted ongoing efforts to expand the state's electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

"These investments will be critical for bringing our infrastructure into this century," Evers said at the time.

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