The Obama administration is trying to increase the use of electric vehicles by establishing a national network of charging stations on nearly 25,000 miles of highways, including two in New Jersey.
The network of 48 charging corridors on highways in 35 states will be created by the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to an announcement by the White House on Thursday.
New Jersey was not among the states or other governmental entities to apply for the designation, but it was included in multistate applications submitted by the Vermont and Illinois transportation departments for stations on the Interstate 80 and 95 corridors, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
Although the program does not provide any funding to help accomplish the goal, clean-energy advocates hailed it for helping accelerate the deployment of charging stations, a step crucial to convincing motorists to buy electric vehicles.
“This is a huge step forward to speed up the electric vehicle infrastructure on our highways,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The state should benefit because clearly we have tons of highways and they need charging stations.’’
Their limited range of up to 200 miles is one of the biggest hurdles to mass adoption of electric vehicles, besides cost. New Jersey has about 400 public charging stations for plug-in vehicles. Nationwide, there are more than 16,000, according to the Obama administration.
“Designating these highways as electric vehicle corridors will make it easier for people to drive electric vehicles from Maine to (Washington) DC, and everywhere in between,’’ said Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center. The center facilitates the Transportation Climate Initiative, a regional collaboration of 12 jurisdictions, aiming to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the transportation sector.
In New Jersey, like much of the region, the transportation sector is the biggest source of global-warming pollution. Electric vehicles are considered a key component of any comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The plan announced last week envisions 55 interstates that will serve as the basis for a national network of “alternative fuel’’ corridors spanning 35 states, plus the District of Columbia. Forty-eight of the 55 routes will be designated as electric vehicle corridors.
Drivers can expect either existing or planned charging stations every 50 miles, according to the announcement.
Although more auto manufacturers are rolling out electric vehicles, sales have yet to meet optimistic projections across the country, in part because of motorists’ range anxiety about where they can recharge their vehicles.
Gabe Pacyniak, a mitigation manager at the Georgetown Climate Center, said while no funding is specifically allotted to the new corridor program, it is possible that the federal designation will be helpful in obtaining money from the federal government.
Unlike other states, New Jersey has fewer incentives to promote widespread switching to zero-emission cars, other than a sales tax exemption on the purchase of such vehicles.
Last week, a new coalition was formed to push for more proactive policies that would accelerate electric vehicle sales in New Jersey.