Amid the euphoria surrounding electric vehicles (EVs), I have wondered what would happen to the huge economic structure that has been built around our interstate highway system if EVs grow in popularity.
Thousands of gasoline stations that dot our highways could face closure. And how would other businesses along the routes — motels and drive-through fast-food stores, for instance — be affected?
Certainly, we'd have lots of businesses that not only would offer charging stations but many other amenities for EV users.
But would we also have to convert our highways to pay-as-you-go toll roads?
Without the enormous amount of tax revenue collected on the sale of gasoline, we'd have to come up with another system to raise the billions of dollars needed to build and maintain roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
I suppose we could use a licensing setup not unlike the British have adopted to support their noncommercial TV system — consumers buy a license that allows them to install or use TV receiving equipment.
Already, many states, including ones that have zero-emission vehicle mandates, are recognizing this gap and imposing higher annual registration fees and surcharges on EVs and hybrids in lieu of gasoline taxes. But there's still nothing similar in place at the federal level.
At some point, policymakers will have to replace the tax on gasoline and diesel with a more equitable funding mechanism so we can continue to enjoy the infrastructure that we have today.
Most EV fans likely will be unhappy about losing the tax subsidy attached to the purchase of the vehicles.
I also expect them to be unhappy when they face heftier payments every year to support the highway system.
Mr. Crain is chairman of Crain Communications Inc., parent company of Tire Business, and is editor-in-chief of Detroit-based Automotive News.