Coalition Hopes to Usher in Era of Electric Vehicles in New Jersey

Ambitious ‘roadmap’ wants to see 300,000 plug-in vehicles on the road by 2025; 2 million by 2035

electric car
The state needs to broaden its efforts to create a top market for electric vehicles by accelerating building the charging infrastructure for the cars and by providing lucrative incentives to spur motorists to buy them.

In an ambitious ‘’roadmap’’ to helping the state comply with mandates to clean up its transportation fleet, a new coalition urged policymakers to establish aggressive targets for ushering in an era of zero-emission vehicles.

With only 10,000 zero-emission cars on the road in the state, a new coalition says it wants to have a total of 300,000 plug-in vehicles motoring about New Jersey by 2025 and 2 million by 2035.

It called for the state to come up with $300 million to finance rebates for drivers to buy plug-in cars, a strategy successfully employed by other states, according to ChargEVC, a coalition promoting electric vehicles.

Sound fanciful? Not to Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex County and the chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee. He has the committee staff already drafting a bill that would allocate $150 million a year from the state’s clean-energy fund to foot the bill.

In three years, Smith said the bill would provide enough money to provide the rebates to buy plug-in vehicles and still leave $150 million to finance building the infrastructure for electric cars.

Smith said the Transportation Trust Fund and the highway authorities are other options for helping to build the infrastructure needed to ease the range anxiety — the fear car batteries will run out of juice without a charging station in sight.

“This single initiative — getting more EVs on our roads — can deliver massive benefits for all,’’ said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC. “All electric customers save money with more electricity on our grid. Total net savings could be in the billions depending on how aggressive we choose to be.’’

The coalition purposefully remained silent on how the state would fund such an enormous undertaking, Frank said. The coalition plans to release a report next month that will show the projected investments will more than outweigh the costs when the benefits are factored in, she said.

Those benefits include cleaner air and a steep reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, and significant reductions in electricity costs, according to the coalition.

But it also will mean a dramatic ramp-up in the number of public charging stations, which number roughly in the hundreds right now. The coalition wants the state to install at least 600 standardized fast-charging stations at 300 publicly accessible locations within three years.

It also recommends targeting installation of charging stations at multifamily and commercial properties, as well as overnight lodging establishments.

Electric vehicles are also the focus of state regulators who plan to kick off a stakeholder meeting tomorrow in Trenton at the Board of Public Utilities. The meeting will explore what regulatory changes may be needed to accommodate an expansion of plug-in vehicles on the road.

Smith said he expects the issue of electric vehicles will be the top priority of his committee next year when a new governor and Legislature take office. “The plan is it will be done in the first six months of the new administration,’’ he said.