The state is allocating $11.2 million from a Volkswagen settlement to install electric-vehicle charging stations at hundreds of locations around New Jersey and to buy new electric buses for NJ Transit in Camden.
The projects are the first to be announced for allocation from a $72.2 million fund set up by the state stemming from a settlement with the automaker over its cheating on emissions testing. Volkswagen installed devices on vehicles it manufactured to spew pollutants without being detected in emissions tests.
The allocation of money is the most significant step the state has taken to clean up pollution from the transportation sector, the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions in New Jersey and biggest contributor to nitrogen oxides, which help form smog during summer months.
It also occurs at a time when legislative efforts to develop a comprehensive program to electrify the transportation sector have, apparently shoved aside as other clean-energy initiatives like offshore wind and solar energy have emerged as bigger priorities.
There has been intense interest in getting a share of the VW settlement; the state Department of Environmental Protection received more than $400 million worth of project applications from local governments, businesses, and others.
The biggest chunk of money in the first round of funding will steer $8 million to purchase eight new electric buses by NJ Transit for the city of Camden.
As allowed under the settlement, the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy plans to use 15 percent of the settlement funds ($10.8 million) for EV charging stations. The DEP will use $3.2 million of that allocation to award grants for approximately 827 charging outlets at 533 locations, more than doubling the number of nonresidential charging outlets in the state.
“What is notable is they realize the market for electrification is here,’’ said Pam Frank, CEO of ChargeEVC, a coalition of environmental, business and car dealers lobbying for plug-in electric vehicles. “I think it’s a great first step.’’
Most of the funds ($2.7 million) will go to pay for Level 2 charging outlets (781), which essentially provide 25 miles of driving for each hour the vehicle is charged. The awards include money for 40 Level 1 charging outlets, which provide about 4.5 miles for an hour of charging and six Fast D.C. chargers, which refuel in 15-20 minutes. The first round of funding includes municipalities and counties, public parking lots and garages, apartment and condominium complexes, hotels, private companies and nonprofit organizations.
“We are committed to growing charging infrastructure across New Jersey and making it easier for the public to help us improve air quality by using zero-emission vehicles,’’ said DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe.
McCabe noted the new electric buses in Camden will help reduce pollution from vehicles causing smog. “Better air quality means better health for our communities and residents.’’
The Camden project, part of the administration’s efforts to help environmental-justice communities, will serve as a pilot, according to officials, who indicated they hope to add electric buses to the remainder of the NJ Transit fleet.
New Jersey has 786 charging outlets at 322 public locations. Clean-energy advocates say that is far too few to eliminate range anxiety — the fear that cars will run out of power before being recharged.