I haven't posted for a long time. I didn't realize, I joined Fuelly in its first month of existence. But I digress.
After reading some of the comments and questions regarding the upgrade, I went and up-dated my current vehicle listing. (My Diesel Super Duty was listed as having a V10 Gas! No thanks! I fixed it).
Anyway, I recognized the familiar database from numerous auto parts sites, and made the necessary entries. But I have a question and comment:
Why is Fuelly asking for my vehicle's VIN??? Yes, it contains make, model, year, engine identification and other identifying bits, that would allow automatic cross-checking with user-entered data, or even auto-fill, but, but, but.
With the recent revelations about government spying, NSA logging, etc, it seems that being able to connect a particular VIN with mileage-driven and fuel-consumed data is just ripe for abuse by "government" itching to assess user "fees" based on mileage-driven and "resource consumption". While other data-acquisition methods can be used (such as ISP) to connect the vehicles on Fuelly with owners, The VIN is too "easy".
I didn't add the VIN to either of my vehicles. Government already has it, from the mandatory title and registration process, so that isn't really a factor. But I don't think anyone else has a "need to know." I point out that the VIN is visible from outside the windshield on a car, and the sticker on bikes, so if anyone really wants to know it all they have to do is look.
Now I see. It is the idea that, if "they" know how much you drove or how much fuel you used, "they" can (and likely will) tax you for it. While the two might not seem connected, this is the exact same fear gun owners have of registration. If "they" know you have it, "they" will find a way to tax it.
The VIN field is optional and the intent is that users can keep all the data about their vehicle in one handy place. For example, if you are requesting a new insurance quote they will ask for the VIN, having it handy might be useful. If you need to go in and pay your registration taxes, the local tax assessor might ask for the VIN and it would be handy to have. We also plan to use the VIN (if filled in) to better organize our cars (as you pointed out).
As for the NSA & Government, we will not share any information with the authorities unless a warrant is provided. As for them using Fuelly to link your vehicle to the amount of miles travelled, they could do that on the old system if they figured out your email address and cross referenced that to figure out who you were and they know the cars you own (if you put the title in your name). I understand your concern and I am disappointed we can no longer trust the government like we once did but I don't think there is a lot of risk here. It's an optional field so if you don't want to share that information then please leave it blank.
We are integrating GasCubby (iOS) and aCar (Android) as our official fuel logging apps. Both allow users to enter VIN so we needed to add this to Fuelly so we could account for that data point. Some of the stuff including data fields and features that will be added in the near future are so we can integrate these apps.
Governments have long levied fuel taxes at the point-of-sale. In a very real sense it is the fairest tax available, because it is more or less directly related to weight of vehicle and distance travelled. The problem arises when vehicles use fuels such as propane, natural gas, or electricity which come from sources other than gas (or diesel) stations. Too, the government push for higher fuel mileage has a direct impact on the fuel tax revenues, and has already led to problems in road repair funds. Bluntly put, the guys with the Volts and the Teslas are not paying their share of the taxes, and governments are trying to figure how to get the money.
IMHO, the relatively small number of Volts, Teslas, and other electric or alternatively fueled vehicles is not causing the budget shortfalls. It is simple economics. Because the Gov't is not including energy, fuel, or food in the equation to calculate inflation, the CPI and inflation rates are artificially low. This keeps interest rates low.
Low interest rates are good and bad. Good, that if you want to finance a purchase, you will pay less for that borrowed money. However, it also means that you get a poor rate of return on CD's, money market accounts, bonds, and general deposits in interest bearing accounts.
Because these areas are not included in the govt's calculations for the economy or inflation, this means that the rising cost of these items are showing the real pace of inflation and our economy. Larger and larger portions of a worker's income will be devoted to food and energy.
This means that they will cut back wherever possible. If they are able to, they will purchase a more efficient vehicle, and/or drive less. Trips may be consolidated or eliminated. Instead of commuting into the city to a higher earning job, they may choose to work locally for slightly less pay, and cut out the huge commuting costs.
In the end, its not the alternatively fueled vehicles causing the road maintenance fund shortfalls, it is a function of people driving less in response to higher costs.
You are correct that the relatively small number of alternatively-fueled vehicles isn't having much effect. Still there are state governments looking into ways of tracking mileage, presumably on all vehicles, to recover taxes. Some have proposed using GPS tracking, with the idea not only of reporting mileage but of reporting mileage on specific roads. Here in Nebraska there is a space on the registration form for reporting alternate fuels. Since I have never owned one I don't know what it entails. GPS is a receive-only system, so it would have to be tied to something like Onstar for reporting.
Fuels not used on-road are not subject to the tax. But as a practical matter you have to pay the tax and file for a refund on your Federal tax. When I drove truck, we fueled the truck first, then entered an item on the pump for the fuel for the diesel-powered refrigeration unit on the trailer and that fuel was not taxed. Farmers can buy off-road diesel, dyed red, for their ag equipment. Get caught at an inspection station with red diesel in your truck, and the trouble begins. Most folks either don't know or don't think it worth the trouble to keep records of fuel bought for boats or lawn mowers.
Decades ago I said we (the USA) needed to raise our fuel taxes. At the time gas was going for about 35 cents a gallon, and I said we needed to add a dollar a gallon in tax. That would have immediately started a fuel economy drive, as the Arab fuel boycott did only a couple of years later. A friend of mine said that would work, but he didn't want to give Government the windfall of money for them to waste (besides not wanting to pay the tax himself).
Nebraska levies a fuel tax to help pay for roads. The lower fuel usage has resulted in less money. When they try to raise the tax to offset the loss, a huge public outcry ensues, with the claim among other things that the tax is disproportionately levied on the poor, who can least afford either the tax or the cost of newer more efficient vehicles.