COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Last October, Dana Adler purchased a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which has both a gas combustion engine and a small battery.

“I wanted to buy a hybrid car because I thought it was better for the environment and with gas prices on the rise, I thought it would be beneficial to have a partially battery-operated vehicle,” said Adler.

Before buying, Adler said she did some research and found that Ohio charges a $100 fee to register a hybrid vehicle and a $200 fee to register an EV. The extra cost is intended to make up for the fact that electrically powered cars don’t use as much gas, meaning their drivers do not pay the same gas taxes, which are used to maintain roadways.

Adler expected to pay $100 for a hybrid vehicle.

“It wasn’t until I got to the BMV and was told that my car was classified as a ‘fully electric vehicle,’ even though it’s not,” Adler said.

Adler said the BMV told her that based on the car’s VIN, she owed $200. Adler disagreed.

“It’s classified as a ‘plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.'”

The BMV gave her a form to file a dispute.

“My issue is I think that the rules at the state level need to be changed,” said Adler.

So, Adler called Better Call 4, and I reached out to the BMV. A representative told me that the fees for plug-in hybrid electric motor vehicles are set in Ohio’s statute and ultimately go to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

That’s when I took the issue to legislators. The first response I received was from state Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville). As an EV owner herself, she said she also believes the $200 registration fee is “too high.”

Part of Lightbody’s statement is as follows:

Your viewer is correct that the vehicle described is classified as a as a “Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle” and is subject to the $200 fee even though it has a gas engine because the battery on the vehicle is charged with an electric cord rather than through regeneration. 

I thought that the definition of a hybrid was a vehicle with both a gas engine and an electric battery that could substitute to power the car at least some of the time.  Therefore the owner would be paying the gas tax for the fuel needed by the gas engine. 

It seems that the Ohio Revised Code defined the terms differently than what I had understood.  At the time the bill was proposed I heard from a large number of constituents who were not happy about the amount of the additional fees assessed at registration time, and to a person thought the fees charged were too high.  They did not object to paying a road tax fee, only the amount of the fee.  I do not remember hearing about this complaint, however. … … The fees charged have always seemed too high to me, as the vehicles that cause the most damage to the roads are not the passenger cars but the large heavy dump trucks.  And for someone driving one of the 14 models of PHEV cars, the $200 does appear to overcharge them.  Your viewer included no information on the size of the gas tank, which might be an important piece of information to have. 30 miles of electric range seems hardly enough to write home about. 

Mary Lightbody

Then, I heard from a legislative aide for Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon), who told me there is a bill moving through the statehouse to rectify this issue. 

His statement is the following:

Our office has received several calls from constituents about these additional fees on hybrid and electric motor vehicles. Current law divides vehicles that are subject to these fees in three categories: hybrid motor vehicles (internal mechanisms only) ($100), plug-in hybrid electric motor vehicles ($200), and battery electric vehicles ($200). From the message you received, it seems as though the consumer’s vehicle falls under the second category, since it’s battery system is recharged via an external source. The good news is that there is a bill moving through the House that would try and rectify this issue.

House Bill 346 was introduced by State Representatives Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Joe Miller (D-Amherst). Representative Sheehy is a current co-sponsor of this bill. House Bill 346 will receive its second hearing on Tuesday, December 13 and will be amended. When amended, two majors changes will occur.

Michael Sheehy

Those amendments, Sheehy said, include the following:

  • Revises the definition of “hybrid motor vehicle” to mean: A passenger car powered by an internal propulsion system consisting of both of the following:
    • A combustion engine
    • Battery cell energy system that is recharged both by an external source of electricity and other vehicle mechanisms that capture and store electric energy
  • Reduces the fees as follows:
    • From $200 to $100 for plug-ins
    • From $100 to $0 for non-plug-ins

“This bill will result in three levels of additional fees,” Sheehy’s statement further read. “Cars that are solely powered by a combustion engine, or a combustion engine and internal mechanisms that capture and store electric energy would pay no additional fee. Cars that have a combustion engine and is powered by an external power source (plug-in) would be $100 (this would be the case for the consumer who reached out to you). Fully electric vehicles would still have to pay the additional $200 fee.”