New Jersey was always the place for residents of neighboring states—Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania—to buy cheap gasoline.
That era ended two days ago, when a political deal struck between its legislature and the governor raised the state gas tax by a whopping 23 cents a gallon.
Today, a new coalition launched with the aim of pushing the state "to the forefront on electric-vehicle adoption."
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Named ChargEVC, the coalition is made up of environmental and community advocates, electric utilities, auto dealers, and technology companies in the state.
Its aim is to "research, educate, and advocate for the widespread adoption of next-generation electric vehicles in New Jersey."
For several reasons, the new group comes at a propitious time for the state.
2014 BMW i3 REx, scenic New Jersey, Apr 2015 [photo by owner Tom Moloughney]
First, the New Jersey gas-tax deal ended many years of "no new taxes" pledges by a governor whose final term will expire next year.
A new administration starting in 2018 is widely expected to be more amenable to state carbon-reduction programs and zero-emission vehicles than was the current regime.
Second, the first of several affordable battery-electric cars with 200 miles of range or more is about to hit the market. (That would be the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV.)
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Third, New Jersey is surrounded by states that have adopted the stricter California Zero-Emission Vehicle emission rules, which are now collectively gearing up for a big push to sell more electric cars in the Northeast.
New Jersey itself is not presently a ZEV-rules state, but it is a major artery between and among such states.
Finally, it's the most densely-populated of all 50 states—with more than 1,000 residents per square mile—meaning air pollution and traffic congestion are perennial concerns.
MetLife electric-car charging station for employee use - Bridgewater, New Jersey
So the new coalition has a lot of work to do, and may find more fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of electric transport than it would have in prior years.
ChargEVC describes its mission as follows:
...to design and promote policies that replace cars that run on traditional fuel with electric-powered vehicles and assure widespread benefits, including reductions in greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions, strengthening of the utility grid, lowering and stabilizing of electricity rates, reduction of transportation costs, and a diversification of New Jersey’s primary energy supply beyond petroleum.
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The state can realize "wide and large economic and environmental benefits across all sectors,” said its executive director Pamela Frank, "but only with proactive planning and policies.”
She hopes that New Jersey can "set a national model of thoughtful policies that promote the growth of electric cars and the substantial benefits they deliver."
More than half the state's electricity already comes from zero-emission sources, added M. Courtney McCormick, vice president for renewables and energy solutions at the electric utility PSE&G.
Plug-in electric cars at PSE+G facility in Newark, New Jersey
That means that electric cars can have a larger impact on air quality and carbon emissions in New Jersey than they would in other states.
And 1 mile driven in an electric car in the state produces 70 percent fewer emissions than one driven in a gasoline vehicle, according to Mary Barber, who is director of New Jersey Clean Energy within the nationwide Environmental Defense Fund.
The coalition intends to publish its first report, The NJ EV Roadmap, early next year. That will offer research, analysis, and recommendations for the policies that will be needed to accelerate public charging infrastructure in the state.