The New Jersey Legislature should pass an EV bill before the end of this lame duck session.
Because of the wide array of benefits that electric vehicles will provide, the bill has earned the support of often divergent groups — including the New Jersey Coalition for Automotive Retailers (NJCAR), businesses, investors, labor unions, equity, community, faith-based and environmental groups, manufacturers, technology companies, health and consumer advocates, and utilities.
The Press of Atlantic City’s recent editorial, “NJ doesn’t need a costly, unfair scheme promoting electric vehicles,” has it dead wrong on several fronts about S2252/A4819.
First, if we wait for natural market growth we disregard the law. New Jersey passed a law, effective as of 2006, linking its federal clean air requirements with California’s more stringent clean air requirements, because New Jersey has some of the worst air pollution in the country. Since that time, 13 other states have joined New Jersey as Clean Car States. To satisfy its obligation under that law, New Jersey needs approximately 330,000 plug-in cars by 2025. It is less than 9% of the way toward that goal. Waiting would not be a responsible approach to meeting statutory goals. Laws matter.
Second, according to a report prepared for ChargEVC by Gabel Associates and Energy Initiatives Group, more electric cars on the road would result in lowering electric rates for everyone who pays an electric bill, even for people who do not drive these cars. The more volume of electricity that runs through the system, the more fixed costs of the grid are diluted. This would lower the cost of electricity for everyone. Further, ensuring that this additional electricity use does no harm to the grid, we need to set this up correctly from the start. This means working with utilities to ensure grid stability and that the maximum benefits can be realized for all.
Third, the electric cars available today, with more coming over the next 12 to 24 months, are perfectly suited for most people for most of the driving they do and will not become obsolete. Technology will continue to improve and prices will continue to decrease — in fact, more electric vehicle models are being introduced at lower prices. Cars today get well over 200 miles to the charge and most of us drive only 40 miles per day. Investing in critical charging infrastructure reduces the “range anxiety” mindset and would get people comfortable using these vehicles. That means more electric cars on the roads.
Fourth, private investment is ready, willing and able to build out charging infrastructure, but it will only go where it’s profitable. Today, with few electric vehicles on the road, there are several obstacles to profitability for private sector charging station companies. This creates an opportunity to smartly leverage public sector spending in order to attract private capital to build out public fast charging infrastructure and provide coverage throughout New Jersey, allowing residents to “grab and go” fuel as they are accustomed. Fast charging is also required for people who will not have access to overnight charging at home. Those who live in apartments or condominiums will “charge up” once a week, like they stop at gas stations today. Fast charging will also be required for new ride sharing services that offer electric rides. Rides using electricity for fuel cost less and can help solve “last mile” commute challenges and increase mobility options for thousands of New Jerseyans.
Lastly, government policy ensures residents are protected from indifferent market forces that cause undue harm to some. The average age of cars and light trucks in the United States is 11.8 years. That means we have a lot of less environmentally friendly vehicles on the roads today than vehicles currently offered for sale. Replacing those with cars that have no tailpipe emissions is consequential. Every mile driven in an electric vehicle is 70% to 80% cleaner than a mile driven by an equivalent internal combustion engine car — even with the electric generation sources operating today. Consider the places where automobiles travel, in urban areas, and up and down routes like the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway. Dirtier cars create pockets of pollution for communities in urban areas and adjacent to travel corridors that experience significant health impacts, including higher rates of childhood asthma and other lung disorders.
We understand from analysis over the last several years, the biggest barriers to getting people into an electric vehicle are 1) the price premium and 2) the fear of running out of charge. We know how to address those barriers, the solutions are included in the EV bill that the NJ Legislature should pass now.
Pam Frank, of Lawrence Township, is CEO of ChargEVC, a nonprofit trade association promoting the use of electric vehicles.