NJ set to share in billions for charging stations

TOM JOHNSON, ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT WRITER | OCTOBER 4, 2022

NJ Spotlight News

Electric vehicles being charged

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The federal government is allocating $5 billion over the next five years to help New Jersey and other states build a nationwide network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles on major highways.

In approving last week’s deployment plans for 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s action will open up access to $104 million of the fund to New Jersey over the life of the program. But the initial allocation is only $15 million with additional allocations of $22 million in each of the next four years.

To clean-energy advocates, however, the infusion of aid from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ramp up the state’s efforts to make electric charging stations more prevalent, an outcome viewed as crucial to ending motorists’ range anxiety — the fear they will run out of a charge before finding a place to recharge their car.

“It helps us to get to a place where people no longer have range anxiety,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, which has joined a coalition pushing the transition to electric vehicles. The transportation sector is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.

Across the nation, the network of charging infrastructure is projected to cover 75,000 miles on major highways. In New Jersey, it is expected to cover 42 of the state’s biggest highways, with charging stations located every 25 to 50 miles, according to its deployment plan.

Achieving state goals

Several state laws require New Jersey to have 330,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025. In another 10 years, the state is supposed to have 2 million registered light-duty electric vehicles — no small task. At the end of 2021, there were only 24,000 electric vehicles registered in New Jersey.

If the state is to achieve those ambitious goals, it will have to increase the number of charging stations in New Jersey, particularly so-called fast-chargers, which can recharge light- duty vehicles in 15 to 20 minutes. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 655 fast-chargers in New Jersey as of the end of September.

“It is really important for folks to know they can fill up when they take a long journey,’’ said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

The state’s recently approved deployment plans call for another 1,600 to 5,600 fast-charging stations by 2035. Not only does the state need to increase the number of charging stations, it also will need to find new funding sources to expand its highly popular rebate program for purchasers of electric vehicles.

Charge Up New Jersey offers rebates of $2,000 to $4,000, depending on the price of the electric vehicle. It is often oversubscribed within a few months of accepting applications from consumers for rebates each year. A law approved by the Legislature a few years ago provided $30 million in rebates on a yearly basis.

Higher rebates?

That needs to be increased given the higher price tag motorists pay for a new electric vehicle, advocates say. While energy savings are higher because it is cheaper to refuel with electricity than with gasoline, the rebate program needs to be expanded if the state is to achieve its electrification goals for the transportation sector, they said.

“In the big picture, we need hundreds of millions of dollars to complete this transition,’’ said Pam Frank, CEO of ChargEVC, a coalition of clean-energy advocates, industry executives and auto dealers. For example, the state needs to modernize the grid to ensure there is enough electricity to power the grid and integrate renewables into the system.

“Our nation must rapidly transition to electric vehicles to end our dependence on oil for transportation,’’ said Ben Prochazka, executive director of the Electrification Coalition. “This will improve our energy security, realize EV economic benefits and reduce air pollution for our communities.’’

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-10-04 04:34:24 -0700