With less than two months remaining in the lame-duck Legislature, clean-energy advocates are pushing a slimmed-down bill promoting the use of plug-in electric vehicles, a move they hope will transform the transportation sector.
The bill, the latest version of legislation (SCS-2252) that passed a key Senate committee 13 months ago, lays out specific time frames for getting more electric vehicles on the road and more charging infrastructure in place around New Jersey’s main traffic corridors and communities.
By addressing carbon pollution from the transportation sector, advocates say electrifying light-duty vehicles is critical to achieving the goals of both the Global Warming Response Act, a law that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2006 levels by 2050, as well as the state Energy Master Plan.
The legislation, mired in the Senate Budget Committee, would put in place incentives that proponents argue are necessary to convince consumers to switch to zero-emission vehicles. The incentives would address the two huge barriers to driving plug-in electric cars: price and range anxiety (consumers’ concern that their vehicle would run out of juice before recharging).
To that end, the bill, in its current form, would set aside $30 million over the next decade to hand out rebates of up to $5,000 to consumers who buy electric vehicles. The money would primarily come from a surcharge now levied on customers’ electric bills, but state funding could also come through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate effort to cut pollution from power plants that New Jersey recently rejoined.
In certain aspects, the bill, sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex County, scales back some of the targets set in legislation that cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee.
1.5 million vehicles by 2035
The latest version retains a goal of having 330,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025, but only targets having 1.5 million such vehicles on the road by 2035, instead of the 2 million vehicles established under the original bill. It sets a goal of having 85% of all new light-duty vehicles to be plug-in cars by 2040.
In another change, the bill requires only 400 fast-charging stations statewide by 2025, a drop from the 600 such stations required under the bill that emerged from the Senate committee. Another 1,000 slower charging stations would be installed across the state by 2025, a target that is identical to the original bill.
By 2024, the bill would require at least 10% of all New Jersey Transit buses to be zero-emission. That target may conflict with recent statements by agency executives, who argued for a go-slow approach toward electrifying its fleet because of concerns battery-operated buses were not as reliable in cold weather.
The latest version of the electric vehicle bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate Budget Committee, but as of late Friday, the panel had yet to establish its next meeting date. The legislative session ends on Jan. 13, 2020.