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How electric cars could make America’s crumbling roads even worse

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How electric cars could make america’s crumbling roads even worse
Currently, carmakers and others are deploying large networks of charging stations throughout the country. Examples include Tesla’s Superchargers, Chargepoint, EVgo and Volkswagen’s proposed mobile chargers. One solution to the lack of revenue from electric cars could be for governments to tack on their taxes to the bill, charging a few extra cents per kilowatt “pumped into the tank.” (Associated Press))

The following article was written by Jay L. Zagorsky of Boston University and was published by The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. The article was distributed by The Associated Press under a Creative Commons license.

U.S. roads and bridges are in abysmal shape – and that was before the recent winter storms made things even worse.

In fact, the government rates over one-quarter of all urban interstates as in fair or poor condition and one-third of U.S. bridges need repair.

To fix the potholes and crumbling roads, federal, state and local governments rely on fuel taxes, which raise more than $80 billion a year and pay for around three-quarters of what the U.S. spends on building new roads and maintaining them.

I recently purchased an electric car, the Tesla Model 3. While swerving down a particularly rutted highway in New York, the economist in me began to wonder, what will happen to the roads as fewer and fewer cars run on gasoline? Who will pay to fix the streets?

Fuel taxes 101

Every time you go to the pump, each gallon of fuel you purchase puts money into a variety of pockets.

About half goes to the drillers that extract oil from the earth. Just under a quarter pays the refineries to turn crude into gasoline. And around 6 percent goes to distributors.

The rest, or typically about 20 percent of every gallon of gas, goes to various governments to maintain and enhance the U.S. transportation’s infrastructure.

Currently, the federal government charges 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline, which provides 85 percent to 90 percent of the Highway Trust Fund that finances most federal spending on highways and mass transit.

State and local government charge their own taxes that vary widely. Combined with the national levy, fuel taxes range from over 70 cents per gallon in high-tax states like California and Pennsylvania to just over 30 cents in states like Alaska and Arizona. The difference is a key reason the price of gasoline changes so dramatically when you cross state lines.

While people often complain when their fuel prices go up, the real burden of gasoline taxes has been falling for decades. The federal government’s 18.4 cent tax, for example, was set way back in 1993. The tax would have to be 73 percent higher, or 32 cents, to have the same purchasing power.

On top of that, today’s vehicles get better mileage, which means fewer gallons of gas and less money collected in taxes.

And electric vehicles, of course, don’t need gasoline, so their drivers don’t pay a dime in fuel taxes.

A crisis in the making

At the moment, this doesn’t present a crisis because electric vehicles represent only a small proportion of the U.S. fleet.

Slightly more than 1 million plug-in vehicles have been sold since 2012 when the first mass market models hit the roads. While impressive, that figure is just a fraction of the over 250 million vehicles currently registered and legally drivable on U.S. highways.

But sales of electric cars are growing rapidly as how far they can travel before recharging and prices fall. Dealers sold a record 360,000 electric vehicles last year, up 80 percent from 2017.

If sales continue at this breakneck pace, electric cars will become mainstream in no time. In addition, governments in Europe and Chinaare actively steering consumers away from fossil fuels and toward their electric counterparts.

In other words, the time will come very soon when the U.S. and individual states will no longer be able to rely on fuel taxes to mend American roads.

What states are doing about it

Some states are already anticipating this eventuality and are crafting solutions.

One involves charging owners of electric cars a fixed fee. So far, 17 states have done just that, with annual taxes ranging from $100 to $200 per car.

There are a few of problems with a fixed fee approach. For example, the proceeds only go to state coffers, even though the driver also uses out-of-state roads and national highways.

Another is that it’s regressive. Since a fixed fee hits all owners equally, regardless of income or how much they drive, it hurts poorer consumers most. During debate in Maine over a proposed $250 annual EV fee, opponents noted that the average person currently pays just a third of that – $82 – in state fuel taxes.

Oregon is testing another solution. Instead of paying fuel taxes, drivers are able to volunteer for a program that lets them pay based on miles driven rather than how many gallons they consume. The state installs tracking devices in their cars – whether electric or conventional – and drivers get a refund for the gas tax they pay at the pump.

The program raises privacy and fairness concerns especially for rural residents who have few other transportation options.

Another way forward

I believe there’s another solution.

Currently, carmakers and others are deploying large networks of charging stations throughout the country. Examples include Tesla’s Superchargers, Chargepoint, EVgo and Volkswagen’s proposed mobile chargers.

They operate just like gas pumps, only they provide kilowatts of electricity instead of gallons of fuel. While electric vehicle owners are free to use their own power outlets, anyone traveling long distances has to use these stations. And because charging at home is a hassle – requiring eight to 20 hours – I believe most drivers will increasingly choose the convenience and speed of the charging stations, which can fill up an EV in as little as 30 minutes.

So one option could be for governments to tack on their taxes to the bill, charging a few extra cents per kilowatt “pumped into the tank.” Furthermore, I would argue that the tax – whether on fuel or power – shouldn’t be a fixed amount but a percentage, which makes it less likely to be eroded by inflation over time.

It is in everyone’s interest to ensure there are funds to maintain the nation’s road. A small percentage tax on EV charging stations will help maintain U.S. roads without hurting electric vehicles’ chances of becoming a mass market product.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: http://theconversation.com/how-electric-cars-could-make-americas-crumbling-roads-even-worse-112341.

 

 

 

 

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Equipment

Peterbilt delivers model 579EV to Werner for electric-powered truck pilot program

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Peterbilt has partnered with Werner Enterprises for their electric operations. The 579EV utilizes a TransPower Energy Storage Subsystem. (Courtesy: Peterbilt)

DENTON, Texas ­— Werner Enterprises has selected the Peterbilt Model 579EV for their battery electric-powered truck pilot program.

“Werner Enterprises has long been regarded as an industry pioneer, and Peterbilt is honored to partner with them and have our 579EV lead their electric operations,” said PACCAR Vice President and Peterbilt General Manager, Jason Skoog. “Peterbilt is leading the charge in electric vehicle development, with three applications for zero-emissions performance.”

The 579EV delivered to Werner utilizes a TransPower Energy Storage Subsystem with a total storage capacity of 352 kWh.  It is driven by a Meritor Blue-Horizon Mid-Ship Motor Drive Subsystem with up to 430 HP, features an estimated range of about 150 miles and a charging time as little as 1-hour when a fast-charging system is utilized.

Funding for the tractor was provided through the California Air Resource Board California Climate Investments (CCI) program, along with the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

“Werner is committed to finding alternative ways to keep our trucks environmentally-friendly while staying at the front edge of technology,” said Werner Enterprises President and Chief Executive Officer Derek Leathers. “Now, we’re excited about putting on some real-world miles with a dedicated customer in southern California over the next year.”

Pricing and option availability for 579EVs will be available on the Peterbilt’s SmartSpec sales tool in the second half of 2020.

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FTR, ACT report significant decline in trailer orders for December

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Ftr, act report significant decline in trailer orders for december
FTR Transportation Intelligence reports that trailer orders for December were the lowest since August at 16,500 units. ACT Research indicates that trailer manufacturers booked 17,200 net orders last month. (Courtesy: Great Dane)

Both FTR Transportation Intelligence and ACT Research report that trailer order saw a decline in December 2019 from both the previous month as well as December of the previous year.

FTR states that preliminary trailer orders for December were the lowest since August at 16,500 units. December trailer orders were -17% month over month and -41% year over year. Trailer orders for 2019 totaled 203,000 units. This decline is likely because fleets are displaying the same caution on trailers as they are showing in their Class 8 order activity.

ACT Research’s preliminary estimates for trailer sales also indicates a significant decline for December 2019 with trailer manufacturers booked 17,200 net orders to their orderboards last month, which is a 13% decline from November volume. Activity was 37% below last December. For the full year, the industry saw a 51% decline versus 2018 volume. That annual volume was the lowest since 2011.

Before accounting for cancellations, ACT found that new orders in December were 17,900 trailers, off 16% month-over-month and 39% below last year. Full-year new orders of just over 244,000 units were down 44% versus 2018. Final volume will be available later this month. This preliminary market estimate should be within +/- 3% of the final order tally.

“The year closed on a disappointing note, as fleets continue to maintain a very conservative stance toward 2020 capital investment,” said Frank Maly, director of CV transportation analysis and research at ACT Research. “Backlog declined in 11 months of 2019, with October being the only exception to that trend. The year-end orderboard sets a very soft foundation for OEMs for the new year, as OEMs seek to better balance their production volumes to their existing orderboards,”.

The large carriers are being careful with their ordering strategy by placing smaller orders with shorter lead times than is typical at the end of a calendar year, according to FTR.  A great deal of uncertainty exists at the start of 2020 due to a weaker manufacturing segment, the drag of tariffs, and a tumultuous political situation.  Buyer nervousness is expected to increase throughout the year due to the upcoming election and conflict in the Middle East.

Don Ake, FTR vice president of commercial vehicles, commented, “Freight is forecast to grow only about 1% this year, putting little pressure on fleets to boost trailer capacity as they did the last few years. However, total freight levels remain elevated and trailer production for 2020, although down significantly from 2019’s record year, is forecast to be good from a historical perspective. Fleets are expected to continue to replace old trailers based on their standard trade-in cycles. Van trailers sales, spurred by strong consumer spending, are still doing better than the vocational segments.”

Trailer orders should stay in the 20,000 unit a month range for a while, as fleets continue to carefully match orders with short-term demand. Eventually, the manufacturing sector should recover, generating more orders for flatbed and dump trailers.”

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Optronics acquires USA Harness, becomes full-line lighting and harness supplier

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Optronics acquires usa harness, becomes full-line lighting and harness supplier
Optronics has acquired USA Harness to become one of few manufacturers and suppliers of comprehensive power delivery and lighting solutions for commercial vehicles. (courtesy Optronics International)

TULSA, Okla. — Optronics International, a manufacturer and supplier of heavy-duty LED vehicle lighting, announced it has completed its acquisition of Texas-based USA Harness, Inc. A supplier of trailer harnesses and electronic control systems, USA Harness serves the transportation industry with connection systems including the USA-PLUS Sealed Modular Wiring Harness and the patented USA-PLUS Modular Connection System. The USA-PLUS Modular Connection System has been tested and performed at three times the industry standard.

With the acquisition, Optronics is one of few manufacturers serving the light-, medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicle industry with both lighting and harness technologies.

“In less than a decade, Optronics has dramatically changed the competitive landscape in commercial vehicle lighting with its focus on technological innovation, broader options and greater value, and we’re about to do the same with harnesses,” Brett Johnson, president and CEO of Optronics International, said.

Optronics is a harness manufacturer on three continents. Coupled with this international experience, USA Harness will position Optronics to hit the ground running in North America.

“We have watched Optronics’ exponential growth over the years and have engineered more and more harness systems for use exclusively with their lighting,” said Debby Thompson, interim president of USA Harness. “Though we’ll continue to produce harness systems that interface with all major lighting manufacturers, we’re excited to now be able to offer a fully integrated modular power delivery and lighting solution.”

Optronics is committed to global manufacturing, and according to company officials, the acquisition of USA Harness increases the company’s supply-chain capabilities. “Just like the OEMs we serve, we’re going to manufacture harness and lighting systems wherever it makes the most sense,” Johnson said.

With their blended experience, Optronics and USA Harness will focus on selling integrated modular lighting and harness systems on a global basis. Targeted manufacturers include those making heavy-duty dry van, reefer, tank, car haul and flatbed trailers, as well as those making light- to medium-duty trailers. Heavy-duty truck and body manufacturers will also be a focus, as will heavy-duty off-highway vehicles, armored couriers and other specialized vocational equipment manufacturers.

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