State Program Helps Defray Costs of Electric-Vehicle Charging Stations

Tom Johnson | June 16, 2016 | Energy & Environment
More charging stations should mean more alternative-fuel vehicles on the road, a key to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in Garden State

electric cars
The state is launching a new program to encourage the use of electric vehicles by awarding small grants to install charging stations at workplaces, government facilities, and nonprofits.

Using $725,000, the program will reimburse employers and others to help buy and install the equipment needed to charge the vehicles, which are viewed as a key component of strategies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions contributing to global warming.

By some estimates, New Jersey only has about 2,500 electric vehicles on the road, lagging behind other states, largely because it has done comparatively little to build the infrastructure needed to keep the cars running.

Unlike many other states where power plants produce the bulk of carbon pollution, the transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey. The state has a goal of reducing these emissions by 80 percent by 2050, a target it never will meet unless it gets more aggressive about cleaning up pollution from conventional vehicles, according to clean energy advocates.

“It’s the first significant action by the state to do something for electric vehicles,’’ said Chuck Feinberg, coordinator of the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, a nonprofit working to promote alternative-fuel vehicles. “They can always do more, but I think it’s a significant first step.’’

One of the biggest hurdles to promoting greater use of electric vehicles is customers’ so-called range anxiety — the fear that their car will run out of power before they get to a charging station. There are only a few hundred or so charging stations in New Jersey.

The new state program is similar in scope, though not in specifics, to an initiative launched earlier by Public Service Electric & Gas. It has donated charging equipment to corporate employers who sign up a limited number of employees to buy electric vehicles. So far, 11 companies with around 60 charging station are participating in the program, according to Mike Savage, program manager of the effort for PSE&G.

The state program, dubbed “It Pays to Plug In,’’ will be jointly run by the Department of Environmental Protection and New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“Electric vehicles can play a critical role in helping to improve our air quality,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, who noted the new program can make accessing the technology more affordable.

Reimbursement grants are offered on a first-come, first-served; they pay up to $250 for each Level 1 charging station installed and up to $5,000 for each Level 2 station. The difference is accounted for by the time it takes to charge a vehicle and how much mileage a charge is good for. While the grants lower the cost of the equipment, the bulk of the cost for the system involves installation.

More information about the program and how to apply is available online.