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State lawmakers looking to boost electric car numbers

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According to the U.S. Department of Energy there are currently a combined 768 public and private charging outlets in New Jersey.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy there are currently a combined 768 public and private charging outlets in New Jersey. - ()

State officials seek to boost New Jersey's electric car system through an ambitious rebate program and statewide car-charging system.

Two bills were reported out of Senate Environment and Energy Committee on May 21, following an hour and a half of testimony by industry insiders. Both are sponsored by State Senator Bob Smith, D-17th District, who oversees the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, but they will still have to make it out of committee.

Senate Bill 2252, would require various state agencies to develop a plan for a statewide network of public charging stations. By 2020, New Jersey would have 900 public plug-in vehicle charging stations, according to the legislation.

Those would be broken down into 600 fast-charging stations, which take up to 20 minutes to charge a car, and 300 Level 2 charging stations, which can generally take several hours. In New Jersey, there are currently 235 public charging stations and 533 private charging outlets, such as those at a retail outlets, according to the U.S Department of Energy.

Senate Bill 2382 would provide up to $100 million a year, for three years, to residents who switch to zero-emission vehicles.

The bill calls for the Board of Public Utilities to oversee the program, which would be financially independent from the State General Fund.

Rebates would go towards low-income purchasers and lessees, and those who trade in an older, non-electric vehicle which is scrapped at the time of purchase. The rebates would be limited to $5,000 a vehicle. The program would also offer car dealerships a $300 incentive for every zero-emission vehicle they sold.

As of 2017, New Jersey has fewer than 16,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, said the state’s automakers and dealers would be more than happy to get on board and begin selling zero-emission vehicles, as the state begins to ramp up its efforts to wean off-fuel dependent vehicles.

“We want to sell and consumers want to buy,” Appleton said.

But where would the money come from? That was a chief question brought up by Smith, who pitched that question to those who testified, to hear their suggestions.

One suggestion by Clean Water Action was to tap into the Clean Energy Fund, from which Murphy raided $136 million to plug the state budget, amidst outcries from environmentalists.

Appleton suggested that the utility companies, who have a “huge stake” in the outcome of the legislation, put more money on the table to get things going.

“There are tremendous advantages to the electric grid and to the ratepayers, in the mid-term, to building out the infrastructure and encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles in the New Jersey marketplace,” Appleton said.

But footing the bill could possibly be left to utility ratepayers, said Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Rate Counsel, which is “precisely where the funding should not come from.”

“The transportation sector needs to accept some responsibility for its own electrification,” Brand said at the committee. “There are a lot of people who will be making money off this and they should help shoulder the load.”

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Daniel J. Munoz

Daniel J. Munoz


Daniel Munoz covers politics and state government for NJBIZ. You can contact him at dmunoz@njbiz.com.

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