NORMAL — Two Twin City authorities on electric vehicles said they're not concerned about an increase in the cost to register them statewide.
Rivian, which plans to make electric cars at the former Mitsubishi Motors North America plant in Normal, and Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who helped spur electric adoption in the Twin Cities through Normal's EVTown effort, said they don't expect the hike to deter potential electric customers.
"I think the product that Rivian has, I don't think people are going to be deterred from buying it" by the fee, said Koos.
He noted the increase — from $17.50 per year to $248 — is far smaller than the $69,000 starting price for Rivian's upcoming R1T electric pickup truck.
Rivian, in fact, applauded the state's decision not to hike the fee to $1,000, as legislators suggested, to make up for the fact electric vehicles don't gas up and therefore pay no motor fuel tax.
“We appreciate the stance taken by the Illinois legislature on this issue as we continue our build out and investment in the Normal, Ill., factory that will help increase the numbers of electric vehicles on the roads of Illinois," said Rivian spokesperson Michael McHale in a statement.
The increase comes alongside a doubling of the state's motor fuel tax, from 19 cents per gallon to 38 cents. That will help fund a $45 billion capital plan Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration is calling "Rebuild Illinois," which will improve roads and other infrastructure including in the Twin Cities.
The cost to register gas vehicles is also going up, from $50 to $148 yearly.
"I think it's appropriate because electric vehicles don't pay motor fuel tax, so there should be some payment. ... This is an issue being addressed all over the country, how do electric vehicles pay their share," said Koos. "The $1,000 number I thought was punitive. Unless you drove a lot, you'd pay more per mile than a gas car would."
Koos owns a Mitsubishi iMiev electric car that he bought as part of EVTown, which included a sales tax rebate for Normal residents who bought electric cars. That was discontinued in 2016.
One recent electric car buyer said the fee increase doesn't make her regret it.
"It will be interesting to see how that plays out next year," said Tamarah Wagner, a St. Louis resident who brought her Tesla to Uptown Station on Thursday to use a "supercharger" on the way to Chicago.
"Our vehicles are registered in Illinois because that's where my husband's business is," she continued. "I don't think it would have changed our minds for safety reasons. Illinois has a gas tax increase also. It wouldn't matter."
Rivian is ramping up to manufacture the R1T and its R1S electric SUV, both scheduled to hit the market in 2020, exclusively in Normal. The startup has about 60 employees at the plant and plans to have 1,000 full-time workers in Normal by 2024.
Rivian has drawn a $500 million investment from Ford and an equity investment round of $700 million led by Amazon this year. The company was promised more than $50 million in state and local tax incentives when it bought the shuttered Mitsubishi plant for $16 million in 2017.