The state is taking a small step to increase the availability of electric vehicle charging stations in New Jersey.
A pair of bills that aim to boost the number of stations where motorists can plug in and charge vehicles won approval yesterday from the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.
As auto manufacturers are poised to roll out new models of electric vehicles, there is heightened concern among policymakers about the need to expand the number of charging stations in New Jersey, where only about 400 such stations exist.
With the transportation sector the biggest source of greenhouse-gas emissions and other air pollution, clean-energy advocates and environmentalists have long argued that the state should do more to move the public to zero-emission vehicles.
One of the bills (A-404) approved yesterday would direct the installation of charging stations in service areas on New Jersey’s toll roads. Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), the bill’s sponsor, said the measure would ensure the state builds out its electric charging infrastructure.
“Electric-vehicle drivers will have more options for charging,’’ Benson said. The bill is aimed at dealing with one of the biggest obstacles hindering consumers from buying electric cars — range anxiety.
“The fundamental question drivers ask themselves is: ‘Can I get from point A to point B without running out of juice,’” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “We need to do a lot more.’’
The action on the bills comes after the Obama administration announced earlier this month plans to build a national network of charging stations on highways across the nation, including interstates 80 and 95 in New Jersey.
The legislation was backed by a diverse group of interest groups — an alliance of auto manufacturers, an association representing state utilities, and other environmental groups.
The committee also approved a bill (A-2398), sponsored by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex), that would establish a public/private pilot program to install fast-charging stations at various locations.
The legislation drew support from the same groups, as well as Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline C-Store Automotive Association.
Risalvato said he tells his members they are not in the gasoline/petroleum business, but should consider themselves in the transportation/energy sector. “Some day there will be the last drop of oil,’’ he told the committee. “This is one alternative.’’
Few of his members, however, can afford to pay for the equipment to install charging stations, he said. The state should provide incentives that make it easier for such systems to be deployed, he argued.
Compared to other states, New Jersey has few incentives, such as rebates and tax credits, to motivate possible partners to create an infrastructure for electric vehicles, according to a report released last year. The state, however, does provide an exemption from sales tax when purchasing an electric vehicle
“In New Jersey, we need to put programs and policies in place to drive use forward, including developing a network of public charging stations, and that’s why we support these bills,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.