Editorial: Highway robbery on the Electric Highway

The state has released information on just how frequently those rural electric car recharging stations are being used, and it’s not exactly like those lines for gasoline back in the 1970s during the oil embargo.

The Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy reports that drivers have charged their expensive electric vehicles 274 times at the three charging stations built by the state in Beatty, Fallon and Panaca along Highways 95 and 93 since the first one opened in early 2016, according to The Nevada Independent. The donation-funded news website reports this usage saved a total equivalent to 395 gallons of gasoline and dispensed 3,150 kilowatt-hours of electricity. It was dutifully noted that the usage rate is growing.

The costs of these charging stations, which give away the power for free — dubbed the Nevada Electric Highway — has been a moving target. When the first one opened in Beatty in March 2016 the Governor’s Office of Energy said each would cost $15,000.

In the summer of 2015 press accounts said each would cost $30,000.

A June 2017 story in the Las Vegas newspaper quoted a spokesman for the governor as saying the cost of each station would range from $85,000 to $250,000, but he assured that “none of that comes from taxpayer dollars. The office is funding its portion of costs with federal grant money, and the electric utility covers the rest.” And we thought federal grant money came from taxpayers and utility costs were passed on to the ratepayers.

According to the Governor’s Office of Energy, NV Energy put up $30,000 in an upfront cost abatement payment. It also reports NV Energy is putting out $30,000 for three stations and Valley Electric Association is shelling out $15,000 for one.

Another station opened a month ago in Hawthorne. No usage for that outpost was mentioned yet. The press release announcing the opening was bereft of dollar signs.

The first three electric car charging stations have been open an average of about 540 days. Thus, according to the state, they are used about once every two days. The station in Panaca has been used only six times since opening in September, less than once a month.

Taking the low-ball cost per station of $15,000 each that means the 395 gallons of gasoline saved cost $114 per gallon in capital outlay alone, never mind maintenance and operating costs. The high-end of $250,000 per station translates to $1,900 per gallon.

Using the current retail power cost of about 12 cents per kWh, the stations have given electric car drivers less than $380 worth of power over two years. Now there’s a bargain.

The NVIndy website said Gov. Brian Sandoval sent it an email statement saying he was “encouraged” by the progress of the project.

“When the entire route is complete, range anxiety will be significantly reduced, giving more travelers the comfort required to travel between Reno and Las Vegas,” the statement reportedly said. “Moreover, as the number of electric cars increases, I am confident even more travelers will utilize the electric highway.”

When that Beatty charging station opened, Sandoval was on hand to demonstrate by charging up a Ford Focus from the state Department of Transportation fleet in Las Vegas. Since the car had a range of only 76 miles, it had to be hauled to the ceremony from Las Vegas. Most of the Beatty charging stations take four hours to recharge, though a couple can do an 80 percent recharge in half an hour.

According to that 2017 Las Vegas newspaper account, a spokesman for the governor said the office has identified 24 sites along five traffic corridors “where EV charging stations make sense.”

Depends on what one means by make sense.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Gov. Brian Sandoval plugs in an electric Ford Focus in the first electric car charging station along U.S. Highway 95 in Beatty in 2016.

16 comments on “Editorial: Highway robbery on the Electric Highway

  1. Rincon says:

    Did you object when Internet companies were allowed to sell merchandise without paying sales tax? The money foregone was far more than the money spent on charging stations. As I’ve pointed out before, the government subsidized early electricity, railroads and automobiles. Were those mistakes? If so, then maybe this is too. It certainly seems no worse.

  2. Steve says:

    Internet companies have never been “allowed” to sell merch without paying sales tax…SELLERS never pay sales tax. Purchasers do!

  3. Most of the big online and catalog retailers have a physical presence in most states. The huge sale tax loses due to online sales in a myth.

  4. Bill Shuster says:

    How many of the re-charges were on state or count owned vehicles? I see one in the picture!

  5. Rincon says:

    Typical rhetorical argument when the crux of a statement is too strong to dispute. Even if you were correct, your point is irrelevant. Obviously, sales tax must be paid on purchases from brick and mortar stores and not from many Internet dealers. Whether a business charges sales tax to the customer or not (they don’t have to), the business is required to pay sales tax on all qualifying sales made, so yes, businesses are required to pay the tax, but they can bill the customer for the amount.

  6. Rincon says:

    Thomas, I can personally attest to having ordered large amounts of merchandise over the years without paying sales tax. Nevertheless, I am happy to view any information you have about this. Certainly, large amounts of goods are sold by small businesses with a physical presence in only a state or two, but even Amazon I believe, contracts out much of the merchandise on its Web site with small businesses that fill the orders. EBay also is merely a conduit for sales by individuals and small businesses in many cases. Since these small businesses almost never have a presence in all 50 states, I suspect no sales tax is paid. Do you know if this is untrue?
    Probably not important though, since we appear to agree that Electricity, roads, and railroads all enjoyed government assistance in their infancy.

  7. Rincon says:

    BTW Steve, sales tax in Illinois is officially termed the Retailer’ Occupation Tax, not sales tax.

  8. Rincon says:

    Another interesting approach, but pretty unfeasible among a cacophony of competing companies. We might get on board eventually, after Europe and China show us the way. http://www.newser.com/story/258543/meet-the-new-electric-road.html

  9. Steve says:

    Umm, no.
    Sellers COLLECT sales tax. Buyers PAY it. Sellers are only a mandatory government agent as a condition of their business licence agreement with the state.

    Mr Magoo.

  10. Rincon says:

    Sigh, have it your way. In that case, let me rephrase for the rhetorically anal: Did you object when Internet companies’ customers were allowed to purchase merchandise without paying sales tax?
    There. Do you feel better? Does rephrasing it make even a smidgeon of difference? Of course not. You couldn’t see that though, could you? Looks like the name Mr. Magoo suits you better than me.

  11. Steve says:

    No one was ever allowed to not pay sales tax. All states require everyone pay it, regardless of who sold the product. All states have mechanisms in place to collect this money, no matter from who it is to be collected.

    Get busy, you have taxes to pay. Since you NEVER read links here is the pertinent line from YOUR state law!
    “If the seller (typically an out-of-state business, such as a catalog company or a retailer making sales on the internet) does not charge Illinois Sales Tax, the purchaser must pay the tax directly to the Department.”

    Live, learn, pay tax. Open the eyes, Mr Magoo.

  12. Rincon says:

    Try living in the real world. Can you find more than a token number of people who have been penalized for not paying their sales tax when the retailer neglects to do it? Or do you think all of us are so honest that we conscientiously keep track of and pay sales tax when the retailer fails to pay it for us? Your arguments are frequently rhetorical and ignore the real world. It’s hard to imagine that you actually believe them.

  13. Rincon says:

    BTW, you’re silent once again on the rest of my contention. Here, let me remind you: “As I’ve pointed out before, the government subsidized early electricity, railroads and automobiles. Were those mistakes? If so, then maybe this is too. It certainly seems no worse.”

    Cat got your tongue?

  14. Steve says:

    Yolu posted

    “Internet companies’ customers were allowed to purchase merchandise without paying sales tax”

    This shows a complete lack of knowledge surrounding the law.

  15. Rincon says:

    And you are wallowing in irrelevancies while ignoring the subject. This shows a lack of a valid counterargument.

  16. Steve says:

    “wallowing in irrelevancies”

    Forgive me, I took the cue from you!

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