State lawmakers are rushing a long-stalled bill before the lame duck session ends next week that would dramatically ramp up the New Jersey’s electric vehicle market over the next decade.
The measure – Assembly Bill 4819 – was widely supported by environmentalists as a way to slash carbon emissions that many contend contribute to climate change and drag down air quality. It was approved by the Assembly Appropriations, and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste committees, on Monday.
The upper house version was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, but has yet to receive a vote. A4819’s main sponsor, Sen. Bob Smith, D-17th District, who chairs the Senate Environment Committee, said he would like to see the bill approved by the end of lame duck session on Jan. 14.
The bill sets an aggressive goal for the state to have 330,000 electric vehicles on the road by the end of 2024, and a total of 2 million by 2035; it also calls for benchmarks to institute infrastructure to support these new cars.
By 2040, at least 85 percent of all light-duty vehicles – those that weigh up to 10,000 pounds – sold in the state will be plug-in EVs.
“The impact of the investment required to provide rebates for electric vehicles, and build the minimum amount of public, fast and convenient charging to ensure geographic coverage across New Jersey has been studied and quantified,” reads an op-ed from Pamela Frank, chief executive officer of ChargEVC, a coalition of environmentalists and business in support of the measure.
“The news is good: We all save money,” the op-ed continues.
Business groups such as the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers and New Jersey Gasoline, C-Store and Automotive Association supported the measure, though it was opposed by trade groups representing the state’s petroleum and gasoline sectors.
“As we have cleaned New Jersey’s air, one of the largest contributors to air pollution continues to be the transportation sector,” New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President of Government Relations Mike Egenton told lawmakers Monday. “Electric vehicles are expected to be a significant part of the solution to the air pollution problems in New Jersey and the region.”
To support the mass influx of plug-in vehicles, the bill calls for the state to have 400 fast-charging stations and another 1,000 slow-charging stations, both by 2025. Fifteen percent of those charging stations would be required at multifamily housing and another 20 percent at overnight lodging such as hotels.
The measure requires New Jersey Transit to electrify 10 percent of new bus purchases by the end of 2024, 50 percent of new purchases by the end of 2026 and 100 percent by the end of 2032.
In December, the Murphy administration began planning to borrow $500 million to finance NJ Transit’s purchase of 600 new buses. Environmentalists have called for the majority of the fleet to be electrified, a feature the mass transit agency has been slow to adopt, save for a limited electric bus pilot program in Camden.
“While we won’t comment on the specific legislation, NJ Transit is firmly committed to achieving a zero-emission bus fleet,” said agency spokesperson Nancy Snyder.
The governor’s office declined to comment.
With many electric vehicles carrying a price tag between $30,000 and $40,000, the bill calls for the state to subsidize such purchases with rebates of up to $5,000 per vehicle. Under the legislation, the rebates would come out of a $30 million state fund financed by the existing clean energy surcharge tacked onto utility bills.
That drew the wariness of such groups like the New Jersey Rate Counsel, an arm of the state government tasked with utility rates across the state in check.
“Private investment – as opposed to ratepayer dollars – is and will be available to pay for much of what needs to be done to reach the goals of the bills,” reads the testimony from Stefanie Brand, the counsel’s director.