Supporters of the meters contend that the charges are more equitable than current taxes like automobile purchase and registration fees, because they derive from actual use rather than mere ownership. If imposed, they could supplant gas and vehicle taxes as well as tolls. Governments could program computers to require consistent gas guzzlers to pay higher rates, for example.
Equally important, studies have found that the meters provide instantaneous negative feedback, the kind that psychologists say changes behavior.
In the United States, states including Oregon, Texas and Minnesota have explored mileage charging systems, but the first tentative proposals have faced obstacles there as well. A longstanding proposal in Oregon to introduce such charging for electric cars stalled in committee this spring and never made it to a vote. It suggested a transitional rate of 0.85 cents per mile in 2015 and 1.85 cents per mile by 2018.
Although the program was primarily an attempt to recoup lost revenue from gasoline taxes, it was also intended to test the waters for distance charging that would eventually apply to all cars.
“The trials work well, but it’s first a psychological issue and second a political choice,” he said. “To do it you need support of the government, and it needs to happen when there is not an election because there’s always a bit of resistance.”
The European Union continues to prod member states to try distance charging despite the setbacks. High car and gas taxes have failed to stem the growth of car use in Western Europe, leaving densely populated countries paralyzed at rush hour.
According to data collected in the Eindhoven trial, watching the small charges add up changed driving habits.
“Seeing the meter helps,” Mr. Huitema said. “The old taxes don’t do that — you fill the tank, pay and try not to worry anymore.”