N.J. doesn’t have enough places to charge electric vehicles. A new plan would allow 1 in every town.

Published: Sep. 10, 2021

If New Jersey is to get people in electric cars in numbers large enough to significantly reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions, it is going to need more places to charge them.

The Murphy administration has taken a small step toward supplying that by imposing an ordinance making it easier for towns to install electric vehicle charging stations.

The new regulations allow charging stations and designated parking spaces in each of the state’s 565 towns. State officials said this week that these rules take effect immediately.

Gov. Phil Murphy has made electric vehicles central to his clean energy plan.

“New Jersey municipalities are on the front lines of the climate crisis, both in responding to its impacts and leading the charge to reduce their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver in a statement this week when the regulations were announced. “This statewide municipal ordinance provides them with consistent guidance on how to make those changes in the most efficient and cost-effective way and is a big step toward ensuring that our communities are ready for a carbon-neutral future.”

The ordinance stems from legislation the governor signed in July. It requires local approval and permitting for the charging infrastructure, but those standards cannot be changed by towns. The rules do give discretion to the municipalities on things like lighting and signage around the stations.

Murphy has committed New Jersey to using 100% clean energy by 2050, and cutting vehicle emissions has been an early part of that plan.

Transportation is the state’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, comprising more than 40% of New Jersey’s pollution, said Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Over the past few years, Murphy has accelerated his electric vehicle (EV) ambitions, but the state has not kept pace with his goals.

The governor has called for 330,000 EVs registered in the state by 2025. At the end of 2020, there were only about 41,000 registered, according to data from the DEP.

Reducing the price of EVs is seen as crucial to widespread adoption, since they remain substantially more expensive than their gas-guzzling counterparts.

New Jersey launched a rebate program last year that offered $5,000 off the sticker price of certain vehicles. That program ran out of money in December, but the state replenished the fund in July. New Jersey’s rebate can be combined with a federal $7,500 tax credit, depending on the electric car model.

However, keeping the vehicles charged can also prove challenging, particularly for people who can’t charge overnight at home. It can take hours to reach a full charge at many of the publicly available stations. For the hundreds of thousands of apartment-dwellers in the state, having to rely on the public charging infrastructure can be difficult.

(I spent a week driving around the state in EVs earlier this year and came to the same conclusion. Read more about my experience here.)

There are fewer than 600 public charging stations in New Jersey, according to the DEP. Of those, only about 100 can deliver close to a full charge in under an hour. Expanding the fast-charging network is part of the EV bill Murphy signed in January 2020 that also introduced the rebate program.

The law calls for at least 75 fast-charging stations along major roads in the state, with no more than 25 miles between stations. Each station must have at least two chargers, provide high levels of electricity and cannot use brand-specific technology — so Tesla Superchargers would not be compliant.

So far only six charging stations in the state are compliant, though more are in the planning stages.

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-09-12 05:06:15 -0700