NJ Company Opens Its First Electric Vehicle Charging Station…. in Texas

Tom Johnson | September 8, 2011 | Energy & Environment
NRG Energy and others say they're interested in building an electric vehicle infrastructure in the Garden State

While some say the state is slowly developing an infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles, a New Jersey company yesterday opened up its first charging station at a shopping mall in Texas to allow motorists to extend the range of their electric cars by 30 miles.

NRG Energy, a Princeton based company, opened it s first station in Houston, allowing owners to recharge their vehicles in as little as 10 minutes, an advancement that helps overcome one of the biggest concerns about plug-in vehicles—the convenience factor in refueling cars.

The opening of the station comes at a time when bills in the New Jersey Legislature to develop plug-in vehicle stations at shopping malls and rest areas have been approved by legislative committees but yet to be enacted by either the Senate or the Assembly.

NRG, one of the nation’s largest independent power suppliers, has been aggressively moving into the renewable energy field, with a subsidiary active in building wind farms and also a partner in some of the biggest solar energy projects in the nation.

In the recently revised Energy Master Plan, the Christie administration also talks about developing the infrastructure for electric vehicles—as well as compressed natural gas vehicles for fleets—but sets no specific targets.

NRG, meanwhile, is building the country’s first privately funded charging network in Harris County, Texas. It says its station at the mall will offer room for two cars to charge simultaneously, as well including a faster charger, allowing even more rapid recharge for vehicles.

Some environmentalists have criticized the Christie administration for not addressing the pollution problems posed by cars, buses and other vehicles. “He took a pass on the transportation sector, which is by far the biggest source of emissions,” said Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey in a criticism of the administration’s draft master plan.

The omission of the transportation sector is glaring because two energy companies in New Jersey –Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) of Newark and NRG Energy — have expressed interest in building the infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles. That initiative seemingly would mesh with the administration’s oft-stated goal of being a leader in the green economy.

Hoping to make sure New Jersey is in the forefront of states building an infrastructure to support electric vehicles, Democrats in the Assembly earlier this year began passing a package of bills mandating development of charging stations at new shopping centers and rest areas along the New Jersey Turnpike.

Those bills, however, have yet to have been endorsed by Republicans, who have balked at the projected costs of building the infrastructure for the plug-in vehicles. At one point earlier in the Christie administration, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the state had been approached by NRG Energy to build the infrastructure, but since then there has been little movement on the issue.