Legislation would give electric vehicle market a boost

So you’re thinking of buying an electric car, like a Chevy Bolt. But you’re concerned about where to plug it in for a recharging.

At present in New Jersey, your concern is well founded.

According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, there were 5,610 battery electric vehicles sold in New Jersey last year, out of 520,183 total vehicles. Currently those thousands of EV drivers are left to share just 341 charging locations throughout the state.

A bill pending in the state Legislature could change that. It’s legislation aimed at boosting the use of electrified vehicles both by providing incentives for buyers and to build the necessary infrastructure, including charging stations.

The money — $100 million a year for three years in each area — would come from a combination of sources, including the social benefit charge on utility bills and settlement funds in the Volkswagen emissions-testing case.

Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, says the proposed bill would ease two major concerns he says consumers face when wanting to buy an electric vehicle, or EV.

“The first is price. The typical price of an electrical vehicle is $10,000 to $15,000, more than a comparable combustion-engine, or ICE, vehicle, and that needs to change,” he said. “The government has to put their money where their mouth is. Incentives have to come. Cash-on-the-hood incentives have to be put part of the picture.”

Appleton said the second pot of money — to help spur the significant investment that’s needed for EV infrastructure — would “help consumers to have a stronger sense and higher degree of confidence that they won’t get stranded in their vehicle.”

According to Appleton, the current state of things is, “classic chicken-and-egg stuff. What comes first — the vehicles that require charging or the charging that will accommodate the vehicle?”

Appleton says there are three different levels of charging equipment and the cost of one depends on the recharging speed.

“There’s Level 1 chargers, which would be something you would have in your home and that would give you a full charge overnight. Level 2 chargers, which is like what you see in our parking lot, and that would give you a charge in a few hours. And then you have level 3, or high-speed chargers, which are meant to do a real 20- to 40-minute recharging,” he said.

The average cost to install a charger in your home is about $1,500, Appleton said, adding that costs range into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the charger level.

Pam Frank is CEO of ChargEVC — a business association that works with tech companies, car dealers and consumer advocates to boost electric transportation. She said now, “when the market is in its early stages,” is the time to act, noting that as more EVs hit the roads, the private sector will address the need for charging stations.

Frank said she’s saved hundreds of dollars on gas and thousands on maintenance by switching to an electric vehicle. She also predicted that the move to electric transportation would yield an ever broader benefit.

“From an energy perspective,” she said, “if we have all these things plugging into our electric grid it does really beneficial things to our grid and actually helps drive the cost down for all electricity customers in the state. The best way I can explain it is simple math, which is more volume over fixed cost, and it dilutes the fixed cost for everybody in the system.”

As part of the state’s effort to meet its clean energy goals, Gov. Phil Murphy has set a goal of registering 330,000 so-called Zero Emission Vehicles by 2025.