New Jersey lawmakers trying to spark electric vehicle industry

Curbside electric vehicle charging station

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

A proposal in New Jersey would provide rebates of up to $5,000 to people who buy electric cars and set statewide goals for their future use, in what lawmakers hope will be a boost to an industry that is still eclipsed by traditional gas-powered automobiles.

Supporters said the move would also be a major step in fighting climate change in New Jersey, where the transportation sector accounts for more than 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The electric vehicles — they’re ready,” said Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Morris. “And I would suggest that in New Jersey, they’re going to be ready to explode now.”

But industry officials said the move would cost gas station workers their jobs and force residents to subsidize other people’s electric vehicle purchases.

The legislation would be funded with $30 million in proceeds from the “societal benefits charge,” a fee paid by New Jersey utility customers.

“It’s just a simple matter of fairness,” said Eric DeGesero, executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey. “If you’re going to put us out of business, don’t make us pay to do it.”

The bill, which passed two separate Assembly committees Monday, dovetails with Gov. Phil Murphy’s attempts to increase the usage of electric vehicles and move New Jersey to 100% clean energy by 2050.

In addition to incentives to purchase electric vehicles, the legislation includes an incentive of up to $500 for the purchase of in-home electric vehicle charging equipment.

It also sets goals for increasing electric vehicle usage across the state. At least 330,000 of the light-duty vehicles on New Jersey roads should be plug-in electric vehicles by the end of 2025, according to the legislation. Light-duty vehicles include cars, minivans, SUVs and pick-up trucks. Eighty-five percent of all new light-duty vehicles sold or leased in New Jersey by the end of 2040 should be electric, the bill says.

The state government would also increase its own use of electric vehicles under the plan: all state-owned non-emergency vehicles would be electric by the end of 2035, and New Jersey Transit would ramp up its purchasing of zero-emissions buses over the next 12 years.

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