Explainer: Are New Jersey Motorists Switching to Electric Vehicles?

It’s been a slow start for zero-emission vehicles, but if roadblocks like range anxiety can be addressed, NJ could be on the road to meet its 2050 goals
Credit: Pixabay
Tesla electric vehicle linked to a charging station

The issue: Like most other states in the Northeast, New Jersey is looking to clamp down on global-warming emissions from the transportation sector, the single largest source of greenhouse-gas pollution. To many policymakers, the best option for achieving those goals is by electrifying the vehicles consumers and businesses rely on every day to move people and goods away from the gasoline-fueled engines.

Why it matters: In New Jersey, this administration and previous ones recognized the only way to meet the state’s global-warming goals — reducing greenhouse-gas emissions 80% below 2006 levels by 2050 — is to get cleaner-running vehicles on the road. To do so, the state has committed to putting 330,000 electric vehicles on the state’s highways and byways by 2025. As of this past June, there were just over 30,000 plug-in electric vehicles and battery-powered electric vehicles in New Jersey.

Why so little progress: Put most of the blame on range anxiety, the concern among motorists that their electric vehicles will run out of power with no local station in sight to recharge their batteries. The higher cost of electric vehicles also is hindering more widespread adoption of the so-called zero-emission vehicles with a price tag up to $15,000 more expensive than conventional vehicles.

How we got here: Historically, sales growth in New Jersey of electric vehicles has been very robust, even without a whole lot of supporting policies in place, according to a recent study for ChargEVC by Gabel Associates. It suggests the state will be able to meet its 2025 goals, but New Jersey needs to maintain strong growth to reach that target, especially since sales slipped a bit in the past year.

What the state is doing: The Murphy administration has set aside $30 million in potential rebates to help consumers buy the more expensive electric vehicles and started up a few pilot programs to finance new charging stations for plug-in cars. In addition, two utilities, Atlantic City Electric and Public Service Electric & Gas have filings before the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to deploy more charging stations, but the petitions have not been acted on yet by the agency.

Looking for a longer-term solution: The Legislature has crafted a more comprehensive program that has stalled amid concerns of rising energy bills for utility customers from offshore wind, new subsidies for nuclear power and other clean-energy initiatives. But clean-energy advocates and some lawmakers are hoping a compromise can be reached in the lame-duck Legislature and the bill could reach the governor’s desk.

What else is on the horizon: With Gov. Phil Murphy’s push, New Jersey has joined a multistate initiative, dubbed the Transportation Climate Alliance, which hopes to advance a clean-car program throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. It is unlikely to move forward anytime soon, however, with only a draft proposal, short of many details, yet made public.