Breaking: Victoria’s EV Tax is a joke, they have no idea how much it raised and where the money went

    The Victorian Government introduced the Zero and Low Emission Vehicle (ZLEV) road-user charge on 1 July 2021, after announcing its intention to do so, in the 2020-21 State Budget.

    The tax is a distance-based charge that applies to electric vehicles, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, it would also apply to hydrogen vehicles if there were more than 3 of them.

    Commonly known as the EV Tax, it was designed to ensure that all road users contribute fairly to the cost of maintaining and building roads.. or at least that’s what we were told.

    The VicRoads ZLEV web page says:

    Australian drivers pay Commonwealth fuel excise when they purchase petrol, LPG and diesel. This funds the development and maintenance of Australian roads. The fuel excise is currently charged at 42.3 cents/L for petrol and diesel, and 13.8 cents/L for LPG. For every 60L tank of petrol vehicle owners contribute $25.38 fuel excise to the road network.

    From 1 July 2021, a user-pays charge is required for Victorian-registered ZLEVs. ZLEV registered operators pay little or no fuel excise because these vehicles are primarily powered by electric or alternative fuel sources. The ZLEV road-user charge means that all road users pay their fair share.

    Part of the justification was that EV drivers do not pay the fuel excise tax, built into each litre of petrol as such the VIC Government created a tax on electric vehicles. As the transport industry transitions from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles, this would create an increasing revenue shortfall as people move from refuelling to recharging.

    The charge is calculated based on the number of kilometres travelled and as drivers pay for their registration, they are required (or lose their license) to submit a photo of their odometer. After a calculation is done on the distance travelled, a bill is generated for the ZLEV.

    The rate per kilometre started at 2.5 cents/km, however, this has since increased to 2.8 cents per km, while plug-in hybrid electric vehicles: are charged at 2.3 cents per km.

    The electric vehicle transition is happening across Australia and yet, Victoria is the only state to have a ZLEV. While there are ways to claim exceptions, many EV owners end up paying Victoria for km driven in NSW (and other states) as tracking these trips through a log book is cumbersome.

    Freedom of Information Request

    The ZLEV charge has been controversial since its introduction. Some environmental groups have argued that the charge is a disincentive to the uptake of ZLEVs and that it undermines the Government’s commitment to reducing emissions.

    Some motoring organisations have also argued that the charge is unfair to ZLEV drivers, as they are already paying a higher upfront cost for their vehicles and they are still subject to other road-related taxes and charges.

    The Victorian Government has defended the ZLEV charge, arguing that it is necessary to ensure that all road users contribute fairly to the cost of maintaining and building roads.

    I decided to submit a Freedom of Information Request with the Department of Transport and Planning which VicRoads reports to, in an effort to get answers.

    On 29th June 2023, I submitted and received an email confirmation of a valid request, under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), it read:

    My enquiry centers around the collection and use of the ZLEV road-user charge in Victoria. At the time this was introduced and still today on the VicRoad’s website it lists the reason for collecting this charge ‘This funds the development and maintenance of Australian roads.’

    I would like a copy of any documentation that contains details the total amount collected under the ZLEV. I would also like a copy of any documentation that shows how this collected revenue has been spent, including how much was spent (dollars and percentatges) to new roads and maintenance of existing roads, and if any was deployed outside this scope.

    If possible, I’d love a geographic distribution of the funds, an understanding of how this distribution correlates to the location of funds from ZLEV road users.

    Additionally, I’d like to understand the total amount of people who refuse to pay the charge and how many resulted in the cancellation of licenses. Much appreciated in advance.

    FOI Extention

    Under the Act, the FOI request is supposed to be actioned within 30 days, however, on July 31, 2023, I received an email from the Privacy and Information Access Officer at VicRoads, asking for a 30-day extension.

    While disappointed, I was keen to persist in getting the answers to my questions, so I granted the extension.

    FOI after 60 days

    On August 28th, 2023, I sent a follow-up email regarding my FOI enquiry, having not received anything, not a single piece of evidence or documentation from what I requested.

    60 days had now elapsed since the original submission date.

    FOI Extension #2

    My email was replied to later that day with the following request for yet another extension.

    Hi Jason,
    I am currently reviewing your FOI request. Unfortunately we only received partial information this morning and is yet to receive additional information.

    The delay is because the information you request is not in a discrete form (ie not readily available). The business retrieved and processed data from VicRoads database and calculate parts of your request.
    Parts of your FOI request has returned with “no documents” and I am currently in the process of exhausting our search options.

    As such I am requesting another 30 day extension from the due date (from 30/08/2023). I have marked your FOI as urgent and will finalise it as soon as I have exhausted all searches.

    A/ Manager Privacy & Information Access
    Privacy and Information Access
    DTP Legal | Department of Transport and Planning   

    At this point my patience was running out, given two months had passed and the data I was requesting, such as the total amount earned from the ZLEV, should be a quick summary of the total funds paid into an account at VicRoads since the tax was introduced.

    If really hope these funds weren’t commingled with other service revenue at VicRoads, surely they had enough foresight to keep it separate, or at least attach metadata/descriptions that would enable filtering to reveal the answer without too much effort.

    My response to Mary on August 28, 2023 was:

    Hi Mary,

    While I appreciate the challenges with collating data from disparate systems, I think 60 days is a reasonable timeframe to deliver this. I am not confident another extension is going to yield the data that I’m after.

    If the data does not exist and the statements around the ZLEV being used on roads and road maintenance are not found in evidence, I want a statement that details this. 


    The next day (August 29th, 2023), I received the following reply.

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you for your response and I have noted that an extension was not granted.

    That said, I would still need time to review the documents before me, received yesterday so I will not be able to meet the 30/08/2023 due date to provide you with a decision.

    I will review your request with haste will provide you with a decision as soon as practicable.
    I apologise for the delay and appreciate your patience.


    It was becoming clear that they were stalling for time and this data either doesn’t exist, or is going to be reveal what I suspected which is that this money was not being deployed as per the stated intent.

    There’s no conceivable way this information should take this long to deliver, remember, I’d be happy to receive anything, even 1 piece of data or documentation and so far have received zero.

    My response on August 30th, 2023, at this point I was willing to entertain all options, including escalation.

    Good evening,

    I feel like granted an extension or not is kind of meaningless. 
    If I grant it, it ends up being extended endlessly and I don’t get the information I requested. 

    If I don’t grant it, I still don’t get the information I requested. 

    Do I have to proceed with a complaint to OAIC?

    If you have a timeline for getting the information, please share it. 


    This was met with the following response on August 31st, 2023.

    Hi Jason,

    The delay is because the information you have requested is not in a discrete format and is not located within one specific department.

    The total amount for example had to be isolated and extracted from our front facing website, consolidated, and tabled. Additionally, with regards to cancellation of ZLEV registrations, the data again had to be isolated and later filtered to locate specific information you need.

    With the remaining data requested, the main complexity lies in tracing the team responsible for ZLEV related data and funds. VicRoads and DTP has been part of several machinery of government changes and we’ve had several team shuffles.

    I am re-escalating your request and will provide an update as soon as practicable. I appreciate your patience and sorry for the inconvenience.

    Should you wish to complain, the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner’s (OVIC) website has a complaint form you may download, which contains more information about the complaint process and what you can expect from it.

    So there we have it, after more than 63 days, they were unable to even track down the right team inside VicRoads who were responsible for the ZLEV data and funds. That’s wild and clearly doesn’t match with commitments stated on the VicRoads website.

    To summarise, we have no idea how much has been collected under the EV tax, or where the funds have gone and we certainly can’t confirm if any was spent on maintaining roads.

    On August 31, 2023 I replied with this:

    Thanks for the response. 

    If consumers are told that the ZLEV tax is going into road maintenance, this should be fairly easy maths. 

    Firstly I’d expect to see the total amount of ZLEV collected since the scheme began. 

    Then compare the budget for road maintenance in comparison to funds added by the ZLEV. 

    If these figures match, then we can confirm all the ZLEV was deployed as described, if not, how much was diverted and where else the funds were sent is the ultimate question and my area of interest. 


    Later that day, at 5:35PM on August 31st, 2023, I received the following reply:

    Unfortunately the FOI team has limited understanding on ZLEV and the distribution of funds.

    We can only search for documents within our holdings and review them for disclosure against the FOI Act.

    I have added the information you provided to your request, to assist with the searches.


    Remember, this is from the Department of Transport and Planning, the body that VicRoads report to and it seems they’re unable to get any information regarding the ZLEV.

    Still, zero documents or data has been provided.

    I contemplated a refund of the cost of the FOI Request, but the money isn’t important here, I persisted in the hope that they would, eventually come up with some kind of evidence to support the claims that the EV tax was being used on roads and road maintenance.

    More delays, zero documents

    On September 20th, I received the following email from Mary.

    Hi Jason,
    Again, apologies for the delay.
    As an update and clarification, your request has been broken into three parts (see below). The FOI team has received documents or information in response to items (1) and (3). The search is still in progress for item (2) because of the complexity of how the funds are processed, allocated, and re-distributed. There is also a likelihood that DTP and/or VicRoads process this allocation at all, to this date, the FOI team is still waiting for a response.
    1. I would like a copy of any documentation that contains details the total amount collected under the ZLEV.

    2. I would also like a copy of any documentation that shows how this collected revenue has been spent, including how much was spent (dollars and percentatges) to new roads and maintenance of existing roads, and if any was deployed outside this scope. If possible, I’d love a geographic distribution of the funds, an understanding of howthis distribution correlates to the location of funds from ZLEV road users.
    3. Additionally, I’d like to understand the total amount of people who refuse to pay the charge and how many resulted in the cancellation of licenses
    We currently have the following options moving forward:
    A. Amend the request to remove item (2) so we can finalise the FOI request with what we currently have. I can assign item (2) to another case number so we can continue the search.
    Alternatively, you can withdraw item (2) and we can proceed with items (1) and (3) only;
    B. Wait for a response for item (2) and process once we have all the responses for your request;
    C. Withdraw the whole FOI request and we will process a refund.
    Could you please let me know what options suits you best, or if you have an alternative, please let me know by responding to this email.

    I’m sure they would like me to withdraw the request, but I’m persisting in an effort to get to the bottom of this.

    90 Days of delays and still waiting..

    It has been 5 days since I sent the last reply and still nothing.

    Today marks 90 days since the original request was approved and this Freedom of Information Request was initiated.

    The only takeaway I can make from this is that the ZLEV road-user charge is a money grab, with no reporting and accountability for the dollars collected by Victorian EV drivers. This is incredibly disappointing to see, Victorians deserve better.

    I attended the CarSales EV Show 2023 in Melbourne on the weekend and during a number of panels, this EV tax was spoken about as a massive disincentive top EV adoption, particularly with the backdrop of the state dropping the A$3,000 rebate off the price of an EV. In contrast, QLD offers $6,000 off and there’s no sign of a ZLEV up there.

    If I get documentation from VicRoads, I’ll share it with you, but as you, after 90 days, I’ve got nothing from the hours of time, and dozens of emails, not sure this is how FOI is supposed to work.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021


    1. States no longer apply any fuel taxes. Several states used to levy fuel franchise fees until 1997, when the High Court of Australia ruled in Ha v New South Wales that a licence fee based on the value of tobacco was unconstitutional, as it was an excise tax that only the Commonwealth can levy. (Source:Wiki)

      So how is this legal?

    2. Sounds like a similar story to import duty and LCT which they said was to prop up the local car manufacturing industry…which no longer exists yet they continue to apply these taxes.

    3. Waiting for the research that shows what happens when the money not spent on petrol is spent on other things and the amount of tax imposed/collected on that instead… Tell me there is no tax?

    4. Jason
      Mary and the FoI team look like they’re trying to help you. I’d suggest working with them to get a resolution. I’d take the option of splitting the FoI request into 1 & 3, and make (2) a separate request. Then you will get most of the documents you’re after. In any case, (2) (where did the money go?) is unlikely to reveal anything significant as the funds received almost certainly are just lumped into general revenue.

    5. Seems very funny that they can not tell you how many EV’s and how much they raised as they issue an invoice for every EV and Hybrid to pay for KLM driven. So they would have to know how much they have received as any Audit would would have to show this each year as an income stream. Would also show how much is outstanding (Unpaid) also as required by Law for Accounting and for the yearly Audit. This would also show where the Funds where to be allocated to in the Governments Accounts.

    6. Money needed to pay nearly $600 000 per year Andrew’s pension ($300 000 – pension, + $200 000 family travel + $100 000 personal driver with the car). We must work harder, dear friends, to help our Victoria government. Andrews is not the only one with a government pension like this for leaving a trail of destruction behind. Tax on air to breathe is just around the corner. Emergency patients have to wait for 12 hours to be seen while billions are wasted on white elephant projects. The rip-off must stop now and the only way is to not let them do it by protesting while we still can.

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