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Prius, Tesla, Volt drivers et al: Ready to pay new hybrid / electric car fees?

If the state Senate gets its way, North Carolina will join a small but growing number of states that collect extra fees or taxes from drivers of all-electric cars and hybrid fuel-electric cars.

(Update: See 5/28/13 Road Worrier column "Hybrid, electric car fees could help make up for lost taxes" with reader comments.)

The budget rolling through the Senate this week includes new annual fees of $100 for plug-in, electric-only cars and $50 for hybrids. The Senate figures this would generate an extra $1.5 million a year for state transportation needs.

The rationale for electric cars is straightforward: They use our public roads, but their drivers don't pay the fuel taxes that help build and maintain the roads.

When it comes to hybrids, the issue is murkier: They use gas or diesel fuel, so their drivers already pay fuel taxes. Are hybrid owners to be penalized for taking steps to improve their fuel economy?

Here's the budget language:

ADDITIONAL ANNUAL FEE FOR ELECTRIC AND HYBRID VEHICLES

SECTION 34.21.(a) G.S. 20‑87 is amended by adding the following new subdivisions to read:

"(13) Additional fee for certain electric vehicles. – At the time of an initial registration or registration renewal, the owner of a plug‑in electric vehicle that is not a low‑speed vehicle and that does not rely on a nonelectric source of power shall pay a fee in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) in addition to any other required registration fees.

(14) Additional fee for certain hybrid vehicles. – At the time of an initial registration, or registration renewal, the owner of a hybrid vehicle that is not a low‑speed vehicle shall pay a fee in the amount of fifty dollars ($50.00) in addition to any other required registration fees."

Owners of lousy hybrid Honda Civics have new reason to consider small-claims court

Heather Peters in courtLemon owners of the world, unite!
You have nothing to lose but your small-claims court filing fees! 

That's pretty much the message sent out by Heather Peters this week after she won her false-advertising claim -- and $9,876.19 in damages -- against American Honda Motor Co. in a California small-claims court. (The 26-page ruling is attached below.)

[2/7/11 update: NC small claims filing fee is $86, plus $30 for service by sheriff. NC small claims would be less friendly to Peters approach, but we do have a lemonlaw. See today's Road Worrier.]

Rejecting Honda's your-mileage-may-vary defense, the judge ruled that Honda misled Peters in its advertising about the fuel economy she could expect when she bought her 2006 hybrid Honda Civic, and again when Honda persuaded her in 2010 to accept a software upgrade that only made her problem worse.

I'll be reporting on this Monday. I'd like to hear from lemon Civic owners who have joined the class-action settlement, and from any who are taking the small-claims route.  Please email me, and don't forget your name and daytime phone number. ... [MORE]

Shiny happy Prius people counter hybrid Civic unrest

Heather Peters, who took Honda to small-claims court, is not the only hybrid Civic driver suffering a bad case of buyer's remorse. Jeff Wald of Cary and Aneil Mishra of Durham say their hybrid Civics also deliver poorer and poorer fuel economy these days, too (see today's Road Worrier column with reader comments).

Local Toyota Prius drivers beg to differ.  They protest that the broadly worded print edition headline ("Hybrids not satisfying owners") should have reflect the column's more narrow focus on the gripes of Honda customers.

And they proclaim their continued happiness with their non-Honda hybrids ... [MORE]

Are you satisified with your hybrid car's fuel economy? She isn't.

Heather Peters says her 2006 Civic hybrid fell far short of the fuel economy performance advertised by Honda, and she is suing the automaker for $10,000 in small-claims court. A Los Angeles judge heard arguments last week.

Peters is not alone in her unhappiness. Other gas-electric hybrid drivers have been disappointed by their mpg numbers, too.

What about you?  Are you happy with the fuel economy you get from your hybrid Civic, or your Prius, or whatever hybrid car you drive?  I'm writing about this and would like to hear from you today.  Please call me at 919-829-4527 or email me, and don't forget your name and daytime contact info. 

Jaguar C-X16 hybrid concept breaks cover

Jaguar's C-X16 has a 375 hp supercharged 3.0-liter V6 boosted by a KERS system that can add 94 hp with its electric motor. It claims 0-60 mph runs in under 4.4 seconds and can reach 186 mph.

The two-seat concept will debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show this month. The hybrid's KERS is adapted from the Kinetic Energy Recovery System used in Formula 1 racing. A button on the steering wheel will release up to 94 more hp and an additional 173 lb-ft of torque from the electric motor.

Jaguar is looking to join in on the recent push from car makers to use hybrid technology for performance gain rather than purely efficiency for more miserly and environmental motorists.

Either way, hybrid technology is looking pretty hot-to-death. You'll want to check out the gallery.

Triangle J wins $13M grant for alt-fuel vehicles and charging stations

The Triangle J Council of Governments today won a $13 million Clean Cities grant in federal stimulus funds to help buy a fleet of alternative-fuel vehicles and build a network of fueling and charging stations in North and South Carolina.

The grant, announced by the U.S. Department of Energy, will fund about one-third of the Carolinas Blue Skies and Green Jobs Initiative for electric, hybrid-electric, compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, E85 ethanol and biodiesel vehicles. Many of the new stations will be located in the Triangle.

The Energy Department said the new vehicles will displace an estimated 724,000 gallons of petroleum annually. The program will build 45 E85 and biodiesel fueling stations, eight propane stations and 132 electric vehicle recharging stations. It will buy 55 CNG vehicles, 363 propane vehicles, 89 hybrid-electric vehicles and 56 neighborhood electric vehicles.

"We are ecstatic to get this award," said Sean Flaherty of Triangle J COG, a regional planning agency.

Forget Prius. Volt is coming to Raleigh

The Chevy Volt, making its first appearance in the Southeast, will headline a Raleigh conference and expo on electric transportation next week.

The Research Triangle Energy Consortium is hosting a day-long conference, "Electrifying Transportation; A Road to Energy Security," Wednesday at N.C. State University's McKimmon Conference Center on Gorman Street. The conference will feature transportation technology experts including Daniel Sperling of the UC-Davis Institute for Transportation Studies, author of "Two Billion Cars."

A technology and vehicle expo with 24 exhibits will be open to the public, free of charge, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Included are a vintage 1918 Detroit Electric car and a Chevy Volt, the plug-in hybrid General Motors plans to start selling in 2010.

GM says the Volt will travel 40 miles on an electric charge alone, and will have supplemental power from a small gas engine. A retired GM executive told David Letterman this week that the car will sell for about $40,000, minus federal rebates of $7,500.

Details about the conference and expo are online at www.electrifync.com.

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