Contact 2: New Illinois law causing confusion for electric vehicle owners

Data pix.

ST. LOUIS - This idyllic stock footage from Tesla juxtaposed with the reality of driving around on a brutally cold morning in downtown St.Louis, provides us a fitting parallel to begin this tale of electric vehicle ownership angst.

For Dan Brown and other Illinois electric vehicle owners, fun behind the wheel is about to cost more. In early June, lawmakers in the cash-strapped state of Illinois approved new legislation that raised the gas tax.

Since electric vehicles don’t use gas, the new law requires EV owners to pay higher registration fees.

“I knew that was going to start happening on January 1, 2020. Luckily, I was kind of thankful that my car expired in December, so I would hopefully get in under the old law,” Brown said.

Or so he thought. The law says electric vehicle owners have until January 1, 2020, to get a two-year registration for the current $35 fee. But read further and find that beginning January 1, 2020, EV owners will have to pay the new, yearly registration fees, totaling $251.

“When I put my registration and my pin code in, I was kind of shocked to find out it was under the new pricing," Brown said.

Even though Brown's plates technically expire the final day of 2019 and even though he wants to renew in 2019, he still must pay the higher rate because he’s registering his car for 2020. Dan isn’t alone. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office tells Fox 2 registration expires on December 31, 2019 for all of the approximately 18,000 electric vehicles in Illinois.

“I have no problem with the new tax. I actually think electric vehicles owners should pay their fair share to support roads and infrastructure,” Brown said.

Brown says his issue is the language of the new law and the feeling there’s a bit of a moving target so the state doesn’t miss out on collecting this first round of new fees from electric vehicle owners.

Here are the questions Fox 2 asked the Illinois Secretary of State’s office and the answers we received:

- Please explain how registration renewals for electric vehicles work. If our understanding is accurate, all electric vehicle registrations expire at the same time. So regardless of the month purchased/registered, all EV owners are renewing their plates at the same time? When is that time? December?

Currently, that is correct; they all expire at the end of December 31. Going forward beginning in 2020, however, electric vehicle plates will be the same as normal passenger plates and will expire 12 months from the date of purchase (i.e. you obtain a new electric vehicle plate in March 2020, it will expire in March 2021).

-Along those lines, do all Illinois EV owners have registrations expiring on 12/31/19?

Yes.

- Were all Illinois EV owners notified of these changes to the fees and the impact on their renewals by the SOS?

Yes. Letters are being sent reminding them of their expiration date, which includes the new fee set by the Illinois General Assembly.

- What if an Illinois resident purchased an EV today? Would they still pay $35 for a two-year registration?

They would pay a pro-rated $35 fee for the remainder of November and the month of December 2019. Then they would pay the 2020 electric vehicle registration fee ($251 set by the GA) for a 2020 sticker.

- How many EV owners are there in Illinois?

Approximately 18,000.

  • Vehicle registration plates or stickers expire in the year following the year in which they are issued. For example, a registration plate issued on June 1 of 2020 will expire on May 31 of 2021.
  • This also applies to registration renewals. If a current sticker expires in 2020, when renewing that registration the vehicle owner will be issued a sticker that expires in 2021.
  • Therefore, when the General Assembly established a new registration fee for electric vehicles that is effective January 1, 2020, the General Assembly’s intent of that legislation is to apply that fee to registration plates and stickers that expire in 2021.
  • When a vehicle owner renews a registration that expires in 2020, he or she will be issued a new sticker that expires in 2021 and will be charged the new registration fee for that sticker.
  • A vehicle owner is permitted to renew a registration before it expires. However, if the owner is renewing a registration that expires in 2020, he or she is purchasing a sticker that will expire in 2021 and will be charged the new fee that applies to registrations that expire in 2021.
  • To avoid any confusion regarding this matter, our office could refuse to sell any stickers that expire in 2021 until after Jan. 1, 2020. But this would create a very real risk of vehicle owners whose current registration expires in December 2019 not being able to renew their registration until after their current registration expires. To avoid this happening, we allow early renewals. But as noted above, if a vehicle owner who is renewing a registration early is paying for a sticker that expires in 2021, he or she will be charged the new fee applicable to stickers that expire in 2021.
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