Charging stations key to getting more EVs on the road

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | APRIL 14, 2022 

NJ Spotlight News

New Jersey is counting on hundreds of thousands of people driving electric vehicles to cut the emissions causing climate change and to meet its ambitious clean-energy goals.

But the state must spend more, and ramp up spending now to make that happen, clean-energy advocates warn.

The appeal comes as advocates worry that the mandate to put 330,000 plug-in electric cars on the state’s roads by 2025 will be difficult to meet unless more resources are available to build out the charging infrastructure to accommodate those vehicles.

Without that push for charging facilities, the electric vehicle goal could become the latest of the Murphy administration’s initiatives to face challenges in achieving aggressive clean-energy goals. The state has failed to achieve targets for energy storage needed to back up the intermittent power associated with renewable energy. And its once robust solar energy program has noticeably slowed down.

Charging ahead with charging stations

In recent years, the Murphy administration, however, has stepped up programs to build out the charging infrastructure. And it has increased the number of zero-emissions vehicles in use by offering lucrative rebates to consumers to buy more expensive EVs.

It needs to do more, some say.

“We are still a laggard,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Right now, we don’t have enough chargers in our communities. We need to increase state investments in our charging network.’’

By one account, New Jersey is doing well in increasing the number EVs on the road. By September 2021, the state had more than 66,555 vehicles on the road, according to an analysis by EVAdoption, a consulting firm. At that time, New Jersey had the sixth-highest number of plug-in vehicles on the road in the nation.

In tallying up the number of ports available to drivers to charge vehicles, however, New Jersey fared poorly, ranking the worst in the nation, according to EVAdoption. For owners of electric vehicles, its analysis said there was only 1 charging port for every 41.7 vehicles in New Jersey.

New Jersey officials said that analysis was flawed, primarily because it lumped all levels of charging stations together. Different types of charging stations do a lot to ease range anxiety for drivers who fear running out of juice with no place to recharge.

Charging by the numbers

There are three basic charging systems: Level 1, which is generally used at home takes up to 11 hours for a full charge; Level 2, which can take between 3 to 8 hours to charge; and Level 3, more commonly described as fast chargers, can provide about 80% of a full charge in about 15 minutes.

“A lot of our funding has been targeted to fast chargers,’’ said Peg Hanna, assistant director of air monitoring and mobile sources for the state Department of Environmental Protection. Those chargers offer consumers the quickest way to recharge their vehicles. Otherwise, people  most often charge at home or, less occasionally, at work, both at much slower rates.

When it comes to fast chargers installed, New Jersey is ahead of California and New York, Hanna said. New Jersey has 126 locations with fast chargers with 446 plug-in ports, she said. In New Jersey, most are along well-traveled transportation corridors

With New Jersey projected to receive $104 million in federal funds to bolster spending on electric vehicle infrastructure over the next five years, the state has the potential to double or triple the number of fast chargers in the state, Hanna said.

Still, Hanna conceded the state’s goal of increasing the number of EVs on its roads is going to be challenging. “It is not a place where we are letting up,’’ added Cathleen Lewis, who works on EVs in the state Board of Public Utilities Division of Clean Energy.

The BPU has initiated programs to increase charging stations at multi-dwelling units like apartment buildings; promoted building charging stations at locations with large fleets of vehicles and at tourism locations in the state; and provided incentives to homeowners to put in charging stations.

Helping make sales

The office also has overseen the rebates for consumers seeking to buy electric vehicles. It’s perhaps the state’s most popular program, often shutting down within weeks of opening for applications. It offers consumers up to $5,000 to purchase electric vehicles.

Over the past five years, New Jersey has taken the right regulatory steps to ensure a smooth transition to electric vehicles, according to Kevin Miller, senior policy director of Chargepoint, a provider of charging stations for EVs.

“It is worth highlighting the rebate program is currently the highest profile, most impactful and strategic state program regarding electrifying transportation,’’ said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVC-NJ, a coalition seeking to push electric vehicles. Her comments were submitted to the BPU on its Charge Up program.

Pick up the pace

Frank argued the state needs to accelerate spending in that program, which currently allocates $30 million annually.  In her comments, she proposed investing at least $100 million in funding for the rebate program in fiscal year 2023.

As to meeting the state’s goal to put 330,000 EVs on the road, Frank conceded it is “a stretch, but it is doable. At the end of the day, it is a question of whether they put enough money to do it,’’ she said.

“None of the benefits from EVs will materialize — including progress we need to meet our climate and clean-air goals — without EVs on the road, Frank commented.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-04-14 03:22:56 -0700