N.J. businesses, investors want jump-start for plug-in vehicles

Electrifying the transportation sector is critical to cutting greenhouse gases, and achieving a clean economy.

Curbside electric vehicle charging station

Curbside electric vehicle charging station (Ashley Hahn/PlanPhilly, file)

New Jersey needs to adopt a wide-ranging bill that would electrify the transportation sector, a critical step to achieving significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a dozen businesses and investors.

In a letter to lawmakers, they urged passage of a comprehensive bill (S-2218/A-4819) to promote the use of plug-in electric vehicles, a policy viewed by advocates as accelerating the transition to a clean, modern transportation system.

The legislation cleared the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in October, but shows few signs of advancing further amid a slew of clean-energy initiatives being pushed by the Murphy administration and others.

Sending a signal

The investors and businesses — including Friends Fiduciary, Hackensack Meridian, and Ikea — argue that by passing the bill, New Jersey would send a clear economic signal that the Garden State is a leader in the transition to a clean transportation system and economy.

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“As the grid grows increasingly cleaner, electrifying the transportation sector will be a core part of the state’s strategy to meet its mandatory emissions reduction requirements set by the Global Warming Response Act,’’ the letter said. The law mandates the state reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

The letter also contended promoting electric vehicles is important as the state moves toward achieving Gov. Phil Murphy’s goal of 100 percent clean energy in New Jersey by 2050.

Putting charging stations in place

The legislation lays out a detailed plan to establish hundreds of charging stations across New Jersey and envisions a rebate program to convince drivers to buy electric cars over the next decade. By the end of 2021, the bill hopes to have 600 fast-charging stations deployed, with another 1,000 slow-charging stations by the end of 2021.

Sen. Bob Smith, a Democrat from Middlesex County and the sponsor of the bill, said the fear a driver will run out of power before finding a recharging station is the biggest impediment to ushering in a cleaner transportation system.

“The range anxiety is what’s killing it,’’ Smith said. “That’s why we have to get the infrastructure network in place.’’

But critics also question why utility customers may end up subsidizing a rebate program to incent drivers to buy plug-in cars. Rate Counsel director Stefanie Brand and others argue it would end up taxing utility customers to subsidize the purchase of more expensive vehicles by those who may already be able to afford them.

Smith is still hopeful the bill will advance in the Legislature, calling it one of his top priorities. The measure is among a handful of environmental bills he has sponsored pending in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

In their letter, the businesses and investors noted adopting electric vehicles can lead to significant benefits to all utility customers and the state’s economy.

“According to a recent study from ChargEVC (a coalition pushing adoption of plug-in vehicles), accelerating the transition to electric vehicles can produce major savings for all utility customers, even after accounting for potential investments in market development and infrastructure,’’ the letter said.

Others signing the letter included Ciel Power, DSM, Earth Friendly Products, Impax Asset Management, JLL, Miller/Howard Investments, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, and Unilever.

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