I am paying my first renewal fee for my California plates for my Model S. The vehicle license fee is theoretically based upon the fair market value of the car. The Tesla fee is $482 and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is $54. The license fee is tax deductible if you itemize your deductions.
In contrast, the license fee for the Roadster was $1036 for its first renewal. The exact calculation methods changed however in 2011. California uses a fixed depreciation schedule based upon the initial sales price of the car as the car is considered personal property.
Neither car requires a smog check! The smog checks are typically every other year. The process is pretty painless but requires time to drive to a smog check station, wait for the check to be performed and a fee of about $45 in my area.