Op-Ed: New Jersey Can’t Afford to Miss Out on Benefits of Electric Vehicles

NJ Spotlight- There’s a lot to gain for the Garden State if it positions itself as a leader in EV adoption

Fifty years ago, the Delaware Memorial Bridge was dedicated to carry the tremendous flow of traffic and commerce between southwestern New Jersey and Delaware and serve as a linkage to the broader region.

The new bridge enhanced capacity throughout the Northeast corridor by vehicular traffic, which had been previously relegated to ferry crossing. The development of this bridge reflected a bold investment in transportation systems for economic transformation as marked by the leaders of that era who recognized the need for a National Interstate Highway System. Bold investments yield great dividends.

Yesterday’s incentives to build an economy reliant on personal and commercial vehicles fueled by fossil fuels have resulted in challenges today to our economic bottom line and to our health. Fortunately, new technology provides answers. With bold vision and proper cultivation, New Jersey is poised to translate our challenge into a new and expanding economic engine. That engine — fueled by electricity — will clean our air and bring cost savings, yes savings, to electric customers. Electric vehicles (EVs) represent a transformative and innovative approach that will provide multilayered and cross-cutting benefits.

A good rebate program

Legislative leaders and a diverse array of industry stakeholders — including transportation tech innovators, manufacturers, utility companies, labor unions, the state’s automobile dealerships, and environmental groups — have found common cause to capitalize on this moment for action in New Jersey. Pending legislation (S-2252/A-4634) sets a foundation to electrify the transportation sector, driving another tech revolution for New Jersey.

The measure would establish goals in statute, ensure a build-out of a public charging network that provides fast-charging opportunities throughout the state, and authorize a rebate program to close the affordability gap. Following other leading states, a well-designed rebate program allows EVs to be accessible to many more New Jersey drivers.

It is widely understood that transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, responsible for nearly half of such pollutants — with three-quarters of that coming from the on-road use of gasoline, predominantly in cars. Last month, Gov. Phil Murphy pledged with eight other northeastern and Mid-Atlantic governors and the District of Columbia to develop a regional strategy to reduce transportation emissions, following the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) listening sessions. This follows earlier demonstrations that the Murphy administration is taking climate change seriously.

‘Win-win-win’

Prudent and timely investments kick off dividends, and there is much to be gained back from the investments proposed in the bill. Not only will EV owners save in fuel (estimated 4 cents per mile versus 12 cents per gas-fueled mile) as well as lower repair costs; this important transition will also benefit every electric customer and society at large. This can easily be classified as a “win-win-win” for the state.

Let’s get the facts on costs and savings right:

First, everyone paying an electric bill will see savings. With greater electricity usage from EVs replacing gas-fueled cars on the road, we substantially reduce the unit costs that we all pay for electricity. A ChargEVC study calculates that by 2035, EV charging will grow electricity consumption by 30 percent as we plug in our light-duty fleet.

Even if you’re not driving an electric car, you will realize lower electric costs, as fixed costs for electricity are spread across a larger base. Driving down the cost of electricity for everyone is especially important given our increasing reliance on electricity. The ChargEVC study estimates that electric customers can realize $1.9 billion of savings through 2035.

Cleaner energy, cleaner air

Secondly, there are real costs to dirty air. CO2 emissions and other noxious output from fossil-powered vehicles creates real harm. Some of these costs are to public health — especially borne by those who are forced to breathe dirty air in congested urban areas, or along major travel corridors. A higher incidence of asthma from air pollution is a material and documented concern. As illustrated by state Department of Health data, asthma prevalence among children is higher in Essex County than the state average with rates of incidence significantly higher in Newark and surrounding towns. Investment in electrifying public transit, so that we can transition to electric NJ Transit buses and move away from dirty diesel, will have a profound impact in lowering dangerous pollution levels.

Thirdly, by taking decisive action, New Jersey stands poised to anchor the East Coast base of this burgeoning tech market. The automobile manufacturers have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build EVs which will be flooding the market. With bold commitment, New Jersey will draw an influx of related companies to plant their East Coast flag in our state — software developers, battery technology companies, engineers, manufacturers and others, many of whom are spending time here to test the waters.

The ChargEVC study demonstrates the catalyzing impact of public-sector investment on the private sector, both of which are critically important to turn the corner. The recommended investment in vehicle rebates and charging infrastructure outlined in the ChargEVC Roadmap, and upon which this legislation was based, will bring $9 of private sector capital for every $1 of public investment. That’s a great deal.

We cannot afford not to seize this moment. This big bang for the buck, for all of us, is ours to lose.

Pamela Frank is CEO of the ChargEV Coalition, a nonprofit organization focused on the development of policies, incentives, and programs that address barriers to electric vehicle adoption in New Jersey.

[See Original Op-ed Here]