NJ.com/Times of Trenton- If the average Joe had a vision that by the year 2035, millions of vehicles would ply New Jersey's roads energized mainly by electricity, you'd probably politely chuckle and dismiss him as a tad "off."
But if the visionary happens to be the chairman of the Senate's Environment and Energy Committee, and if he's revving up to introduce a bill to help make it happen - then we're more willing to sit up and listen.
Drawing from a road map plotted by a new coalition called ChargEVC, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex County) is looking to position the Garden State as a leader in the market for electric vehicles, ramping up the infrastructure enough to put 300,000 plug-in cars and trucks on our highways by 2025, and 2 million by a decade later.
That's an enormous leap from the 10,000 zero-emission cars now traveling our roads, and it requires an equally enormous leap of faith to make it happen.
Smith says his committee is already crafting a measure that would allocate $150 million a year to get the initiative off the ground.
ChargEVC's blueprint calls for an infusion of $300 million in state funds to finance rebates for drivers to buy the vehicles, which vary widely in cost.
The website FleetCarma listed the Nissan Leaf at $30,680 last year, and the Chevrolet Bolt at $37,495. At the higher range, Green Car Reports said an electricity-powered BMW would go for $43,395 this year.
The advocacy coalition noted that the rebate program has proven successful in other states, suggesting that the benefits - cleaner air, sharp reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions - outweigh the costs in the long run.
"All electric customers save money with more electricity on our grid," said Pamela Frank, CEO of ChargEVO. "Total net savings could be in the billions depending on how aggressive we choose to be."
A vital piece of the transportation puzzle is how to provide adequate charging stations to ease what plug-in car drivers call "range anxiety" - the fear that their batteries will run out of power long before the motorists pull into their destination.
As of the beginning of this year, New Jersey lagged behind their neighbors in terms of providing these stations, with about 400 of them throughout the state at some 180 locations.
By contrast, the coalition's wish list includes at least 600 standardized fast-changing facilities, at 300 locations within the next three years.
These are ambitious goals the coalition and the senator share, but they may not be totally out of reach. Smith's bill, once it takes concrete form and contains real-life numbers, deserves the Legislature's consideration as a new governor and a new set of lawmakers are seated in January.