Electric Vehicles Benefit More than Just Their Owners

Tom Johnson | March 2, 2018 | Energy & Environment
Recharging electric vehicles at off-peak hours could mean lower rates for all utility customers

electric bus
In a bid to accelerate the transformation of the transportation sector, a new study says growing electric-vehicle use will deliver large benefits not only to their owners but also to all utility customers.

The study, commissioned by ChargEVC, suggests there will be net savings for utility customers if plug-in vehicle owners charge their vehicles at off-peak times for electricity – even after including the cost of installing the infrastructure and enhancing the power grid.

Electrifying the transportation system is viewed by many clean-energy advocates as a significant part of the state’s efforts to reduce emissions contributing to climate change, as well as cleaning up air quality in New Jersey, which often fails to meet federal health standards.

The transportation sector accounts for 46 percent of the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions, the largest of any area of the economy, including power plants.

New Jersey lags behind

But New Jersey, as the study notes, lags behind other states in building the charging infrastructure to hasten wider adoption of electric vehicles. The study cites the benefits of expending public and private investment in that cause, which it claims will reduce vehicle-operating costs for consumers, with the added benefit of lower air pollution.

The study’s release comes at a time of increasing public debate over how New Jersey is to achieve a cleaner energy future and at what cost. A comprehensive bill to subsidize nuclear power plants and carbon-free sources of electricity like solar is facing still opposition, in part over its perceived expense to ratepayers.

Even with those competing policies, there is movement to push for broader investment in electric-vehicle infrastructure. A week ago, Atlantic City Electric filed a $14.9 million petition with regulators to invest in a range of electric-vehicle programs. On Monday, a Senate committee will consider a bill (S-1975) to require the state to develop a plan to increase sales of plug-in vehicles and electric charging stations around New Jersey.

Intense competition

In addition, there are pots of money available to fund these projects, although the competition for the funding is intense.

For instance, New Jersey received $72 million from a nationwide settlement with Volkswagen for the company’s cheating on diesel emission software in its vehicles. The state Department of Environmental Protection solicited requests for how the money should be disbursed late last year.

So far, it has received requests for funding from 114 projects, totaling more than $387 million. The projects run the gamut – from electrifying equipment from shore to ocean vessels; to ferries and tugs; to school or transit buses; to forklifts and cargo-handling equipment at ports; to diesel trucks; and to charging stations at local communities, such as the Municipal Complex in Paramus.

To clean-car advocates, the response is heartening. “It proves that this effort could be a real economic driver in the state,” said Chuck Feinberg, president of the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, and a member of ChargEVC.

Other funds for this effort might be available from money received from New Jersey rejoining a regional initiative to combat greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Once the state rejoins the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, it will receive funds from a surcharge on power-plant emissions to fund clean-energy initiatives.

How that money from both RGGI and Volkswagen is allocated, however, has yet to be determined.

“It’s important that all stakeholders continue working to improve air quality – and the health of our residents – through a concerted, collaborative effort to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure to support them,” said Peg Hanna, manager of DEP’s Division of Air Quality.