Boost for NJ’s EV market with More Charging Stations, Consumer Rebates?

Up for debate: Expedited installation of plug-in stations across New Jersey for electric vehicles and up to $100 million a year in rebates for consumers

charging station
The Legislature is poised to tackle new measures to encourage the state to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector.

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee today will consider a pair of bills that would expedite the installation of charging stations across New Jersey for plug-in electric vehicles and provide up to $100 million a year in rebates to consumers who switch to zero-emission vehicles.

The package aims to address the overriding concerns motorists express when considering buying a plug-in vehicle — the availability of charging locations and the time it takes to recharge, as well as the steep cost of the cars.

With the transportation sector the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, there is a growing consensus among policymakers, legislators and others that New Jersey needs to come up with a more comprehensive effort to promote plug-in vehicles.

Sen. Bob Smith, the chairman of the committee, is among those pushing hardest to jump start those efforts. One of his latest two bills (S-2252) would require various state agencies to develop a plan for a statewide public plug-in electric vehicle system.

Hundreds of public fast-charging stations

The system would require the installation of at least 600 public fast-charging stations and Level 2 public charging stations at 300 locations across New Jersey by end of 2020. (Fast-charging stations can take 20 minutes to an hour to charge a vehicle; Level 2 take between three and five hours.)

Currently, the state has only about 227 public plug-in electric stations, although there are another 500 or so other charging outlets at workplaces and other locations.

There are about 15,000 electric vehicles on the road in New Jersey out of more than 6 million registered vehicles. By virtue of joining the California low-emission vehicle program, New Jersey is required to have at least 330,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025 to comply with the program.

In another effort to encourage drivers to switch to plug-in vehicles, Smith also is putting up a bill (S-2383) that would require the state Board of Public Utilities to come up with a rebate program to help offset the cost of more expensive zero-emission cars.

Under the bill, the program would provide up to $100 million a year for three years, but it would require the BPU to come up with its own funding for the rebates. Presumably, it could tap the state’s Clean Energy Fund, but that prospect likely would face stiff opposition from those who would prefer to see the money go to energy efficiency and other clean energy projects.

Previously, Smith proposed a similar rebate program to be financed out of money New Jersey is expected to receive as a result of rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but that proposal also came under fire from environmentalists and others.

New Jersey also has about $72 million out of a settlement with Volkswagen that could be used to finance clean-car initiatives, but only 15 percent of that money is targeted for that purpose. The settlement stems from the auto manufacturer cheating on diesel emissions tests on millions of their vehicles.