A new poll finds N.J. residents are divided on plan to phase out sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035

N.J. residents, worried about EV costs, are divided over a plan to stop selling new gas-powered vehicles in 11 years.

Listen 1:01
A group of cars line up at charging stations

File photo: A group of cars line up at charging stations at a dealership in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This story is part of the WHYY News Climate Desk, bringing you news and solutions for our changing region.

From the Poconos to the Jersey Shore to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, what do you want to know about climate change? What would you like us to cover? Get in touch.

A new poll finds a significant number of New Jersey residents don’t support plans to phase out the sale of all new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035.

“Strong opposition is actually a plurality among New Jerseyans, with 35% saying they strongly oppose it, and another 15% saying they somewhat oppose it,” said Ashley Koning, director of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Last November, Governor Phil Murphy announced the state would adopt the Advanced Clean Cars II program, joining about a dozen other states adopting some or all of the standards set by California. By 2035, all newly sold cars and light duty trucks in the state need to be either battery electric, plug-in hybrids or fuel cell vehicles.

Murphy said the move would improve air quality, provide cleaner choices for new car buyers, and lower the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. The poll finds state residents agree the new rules would improve the state’s air quality and as a result, public health. But Koning said those same respondents are not optimistic about the impact the mandate might have on their own bottom line as well as the state’s financial well-being.

“When it comes to the economy 30% think the policy will have a positive impact, and 44% negative,” said Koning. “Then when it comes to their own personal finances, just 19% believe it will have a positive effect, whereas 47% say a negative one.”

The survey also finds more than half of those polled say they are “not very likely to consider” buying an electric vehicle because of EV associated costs.

Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey said the poll reveals a lack of public knowledge about EV costs. He points to a federal tax credit of $7,500 that kicked in this year.

Electric vehicles tend to have a higher purchase price. But according to a survey by Consumer Reports, electric vehicle owners spent half as much on repair and maintenance than they did on gas-powered counterparts.

New Jersey Republican state Sen. Michael Testa described the mandate as foolish.

“I really question what it will do to our local gas stations, and also what is it going to do to our auto shops, our mechanics,” he said.

Some stations have begun to invest in fast chargers.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Testa said there are also free market concerns.

“I believe it interferes with interstate commerce, I don’t know that it’s necessarily constitutional, or would it pass constitutional muster.”

He also voiced concerns about the capacity of the electric grid, and lack of EV charging stations, especially across South Jersey.

O’Malley stressed more charging stations are being built across the state but said “we still need to do a lot more, it needs to be as easy to find an EV charger as it is to find a 7-Eleven or a Wawa.”

He said the country is on the cusp of seeing rapid electric vehicle expansion.

“EVs are actually a lot of fun to drive,” said O’Malley, “they have long-term cost savings when you drive them. We are also seeing the sticker price come down.”

Governor Murphy has pointed out the Advanced Clean Cars II program will not impose obligations on consumers, because it will not ban gasoline cars, and it will not force people to buy EVs.

The program will begin to be phased in starting in 2027. For that model year 43% of new cars and light trucks offered for sale at dealerships in New Jersey will need to be zero emissions vehicles. Starting in 2035, all new cars and light duty trucks sold in the state will have to be EVs. It does not impact the sale of used cars.

Delaware has also adopted the Clean Cars II mandate. In New York the Clean Cars II phase-in will begin in 2026, when 35% of all new cars and trucks offered for sale must be electric.

Pennsylvania has not adopted the Advanced Clean Cars II standards.

The Governor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal