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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Highway Trust Fund, which finances road repairs, construction, and more, is paid for by the federal fuel tax — but will need a new funding model as EVs proliferate, because EV owners won't pay for fuel.

Why it matters: For years, the Highway Trust Fund has barely avoided bankruptcy, saved by marginal increases in vehicle miles driven and by cash infusions. This system will be unsustainable if EVs continue to grow in popularity.

What's happening: EV driving ranges are getting longer, charging times are getting shorter, and demand for zero-emissions vehicles is growing stronger.

What they're saying: A handful of potential solutions to the waning funding problem are under consideration.

  • Raising the federal gas tax could act as a stop-gap solution, though it could inadvertently accelerate EV popularity. Meanwhile, improving fuel efficiency could chip away at this solution as well.
  • Interstate tolling could incorporate existing toll technology and put gas- and electric-powered vehicles on equal funding footing.
  • EV-specific fees, as in California, Minnesota and Tennessee, are currently not enough to offset lost fuel taxes. Raising them too high could dissuade some drivers from making the switch.

The most workable solution has been mileage-based. A car owner would pay a fee based on the number of miles their vehicle travels, and gas-powered vehicles could get a rebate to offset fuel taxes.

  • How it works: Oregon has pioneered this promising concept, and several other states have launched their own pilots.

But, but, but: While a mileage-based solution has surpassed alternatives in popularity, even proponents have voiced concern about government tracking their every move to calculate the user fee.

  • Additionally, the privacy and data security of car owners must be protected.

What to watch: The pending transportation funding authorization package in Congress includes provisions for pilots of mileage-based fee systems.

Jim Barbaresso is SVP of intelligent transportation systems at HNTB, an infrastructure advisory firm.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
25 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Report: John Kerry plans to visit China ahead of Biden's climate summit

John Kerry. Photo: Zach Gibson / Stringer

John Kerry, President Biden's special climate envoy, is expected to travel to China next week for meetings with officials aimed at boosting collaboration, the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Why it matters: China is the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter and the U.S. is second-largest.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hold steady at 65,000 per day — CDC declares racism "a serious public health threat" — WHO official: Brazil is dealing with "raging inferno" of a COVID outbreak
  2. Vaccines: America may be close to hitting a vaccine wall — Pfizer asks FDA to expand COVID vaccine authorization to adolescents — CDC says Johnson & Johnson vaccine supply will drop 80% next week.
  3. Economy: Treasury says over 156 million stimulus payments sent out since March — More government spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth.
  4. Politics: Supreme Court ends California's coronavirus restrictions on home religious meetings
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Second senior Matt Gaetz aide resigns amid federal investigation

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) walking out of the Capitol in January 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Devin Murphy, Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislative director, has stepped down amid a federal investigation into sex trafficking allegations against the Florida Republican congressman, the New York Times first reported and Axios has confirmed.

The latest: "It's been real," Murphy wrote in an email, obtained by Axios, to Republican legislative directors on Saturday morning, with the subject line: "Well...bye."

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