ENVIRONMENT

Murphy signs bill offering incentives for EV buyers

BY Tim Nostrand, Editor, NJ Spotlight |

Phil Murphy on Friday endorsed legislation offering incentives of as much as $5,000 to car buyers who choose electric vehicles, a law hailed as the biggest step New Jersey has yet taken to reduce carbon emissions and address the coastal state’s vulnerability to climate change.

Standing before a podium bearing a “A 100% Clean Energy Future” banner, Murphy and others touted its environmental benefits, taking note of the fact that more than 40% of greenhouse gases in the state come from the transportation sector.

“Starting today, New Jersey will take its rightful place as a leader in the electric vehicle revolution that is changing the way Americans drive and the concept of what it means to fill it up,” Murphy said.

“Changing how we get our energy is a very big thing that will make us a global leader. But changing how we use our electricity is just as transformative, and perhaps an even bigger thing,” he added.

“This bill will make New Jersey once again a leading state in electrifying our transportation sector and moving toward a future of zero emissions coming from our tailpipes,” said Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey.

Beyond its environmental benefits, the bill provides significant inducement for consumers, especially those looking to reduce their carbon footprint but on the fence over the cost of electric vehicles.

Pamela Frank, the CEO of Charge EVC, a stateside coalition of electric vehicle advocates, said that the incentive envisioned in the bill is specifically set high enough to sway those looking for a new vehicle.

“We did our homework, she said. “There’s a lot of data out there that shows us that $5,000 rebates move the market.”

After languishing for nearly two years, the bill was approved by both houses of the Legislature on Monday with large, bipartisan majorities and dozens of sponsors in both chambers.

The measure provides the credit of as much as $5,000 for those who buy or lease plug-in vehicles with a sticker price of less than $55,000. The credit, which could be taken at the time of sale or lease as a deduction in the price, is in addition to federal tax incentives, which continue to run as high as $7,500 despite the anti-EV rhetoric of the administration of President Donald Trump.

The bill also seeks to bolster development of the charging infrastructure needed to support EVs, including an incentive program offering owners of EVs as much as $500 for installing an at-home charging station.

The bill also enunciates goals for EV use in the state: at least 330,000 vehicles by the end of 2025, 2 million through 2035 and 85% of all vehicles sold or leased in New Jersey by 2040. On the infrastructure side, it sets goals for public charging stations, broken down by location, with separate benchmarks set for multi-family, hotels and what’s described as “traffic corridors.”

The state Board of Public Utilities has six months to develop and implement a working incentive system, which will run for 10 years.

The bill also set goals for the state’s own fleet of cars and other light-duty vehicles — 25% EVs by the end of 2025, and 100% by the end of 2035.

A separate provision also calls on NJ Transit to take steps to electrify its bus fleet, purchasing at least 10% zero emission vehicles by the end of 2024 and two years later to make such buses half of the total it buys. Those vehicles will be deployed first in “low-income, urban, or environmental justice communities.”

The cost of the bill will be borne by utility customers, adding another $300 million onto monthly bills over the next decade to fund the incentives for EV consumers. Ratepayers could also face even higher costs depending how big a role electric utilities play in building out the charging infrastructure in New Jersey.

The additional costs sparked some opposition to the bill, largely because homeowners and businesses already are being hit with new charges to move the state to its goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. Those costs involve $300 million a year to prevent nuclear power plants from closing, and still-to-be-determined costs to build offshore wind farms to provide about half of New Jersey’s electricity, and to develop a robust program for solar energy.

“I’m incredibly honored to say that this is now the law of the land,” Murphy said after signing the bill.

State Sen. Bob Smith, chair of the Environment and Energy Committee in the upper house, also lauded the bill, but said that for its benefits to be fully realized, the state needs to move away from carbon-based fuels in how it powers its electric grid.

“The promise of electronic vehicles … is that we’re going to clean the air,” he said. “Well, that works if you’re not burning fossil fuels to generate the electricity … If you do that, you’re just having the pollution in a different spot.“

Meanwhile, the signing came on the same day that the brand name most associated with electric vehicles suffered a public relations setback.

Numerous news agencies reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was considering a recall of a range of Tesla models in the wake of reports of unintended acceleration.