One Year on: A Look at NJ’s EV Progress in 2020
This blog is the fourth in a series exploring the state of electric vehicle policy in New Jersey. The series takes a deep dive into the transportation electrification policies New Jersey will need to meet its ambitious climate laws. Together, they explore whether New Jersey needs more ambitious transportation electrification goals, the state’s existing plans to realize their goals, and the next steps New Jersey should take to decarbonize its transportation system. Ultimately, this blog series aims to holistically examine electrifying all segments of the transportation sector. Read the third blog here.
It’s been one year since Governor Murphy Signed the Plug-in Vehicle Act of 2020 (PIV ACT), an ambitious piece of legislation that aims to rapidly electrify New Jersey’s transportation sector. In our first blog in this series, we recapped the contents of the PIV ACT and the pillars of electrifying transportation in New Jersey. In this blog, we will see how much progress the state legislature and executive agencies have made in erecting those pillars and what New Jersey needs to achieve in the year ahead to stay on course to meet its goals.
In short, the state is taking good steps, but the state needs to move faster and be bolder in 2021.
Create Incentives for Electric Vehicles
The PIV ACT created an ambitious $5,000 rebate program for electric vehicles (EVs) to help stimulate the market. For the past year, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has run the program with huge success—in just 11 months of the program, over 21.6 million dollars and approximately 6,000 EV rebates for EVs were distributed to New Jerseyans, with over 30 million dollars expected to be disbursed by March 2021. For now, the program is on hold as the BPU designs “Phase II” of the rebate program that will partner with dealers across the state to provide rebates at the point-of-sale and reexamine other aspects of program design.
In addition to EV incentives, the PIV ACT also set the goal of 400 DC Fast Chargers, and 1000 Level 2 chargers publicly available by 2025. As of today, New Jersey has 96 DC fast charging and 387 level 2 charging locations, up from 80 DC fast charging and 293 level 2 charging locations at the end of 2019 according to the Energy Master Plan. While NJ has made progress, more is needed for the state to meet its goals. The EMP also states that NJ should have 100% EV sales by 2050. To support even 5% of the goal, the state will need over 48,000 Level 2 charging stations and 1,364 DCFC by 2025. Fortunately, the drafters of the legislation have not been shy about the need to make course corrections as problem areas are identified.
For example, S2332, which recently passed the Senate, would classify charging infrastructure as an inherently beneficial use in zoning decisions, making it easier for proposed charging locations to move ahead with construction. Additionally, there are several other proposed pieces of legislation that will make it easier to purchase a vehicle online, as well as install charging infrastructure at multi-unit dwellings.
Back in June, we highlighted the importance of equity being at the center of the transition to EVs. So far, New Jersey has made good on this commitment. First by announcing the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan, which allocates 75% of NJ’s $80 million in annual auction proceeds to clean and equitable transportation. Then, by the passage of New Jersey’s landmark cumulative impacts law that protects overburdened communities from disproportionate pollution impacts.
Recognizing that overburdened communities bear the brunt of pollutants that damage human health and the environment, the NJ EDA recently announced its Zero Emission Incentive Program (NJ ZIP) pilot. Funded by RGGI auction proceeds, NJ ZIP will provide $15 million in vouchers to businesses and institutions for the purchase of class2b-class 6 EVs. Importantly, the pilot program targets the overburdened communities of Newark and Camden, while providing a voucher bonus to certified woman-, minority-, or veteran-owned businesses, and additional bonuses to small businesses and for vehicles manufactured in New Jersey. The NJ ZIP program is just the first of several expected EDA programs that will leverage RGGI funds to electrify the transportation sector in a way that centers equity.
Much has been said about the need for utilities to support transportation electrification, and the important role they can play to ensure that all residents share in the benefits. However, in order to maximize these benefits, it is vital that utilities develop sustainable long-term rates that integrate EVs onto the grid in a way that optimizes the distribution system and develop programs that support the build-out of EV charging networks.
Since the PIV ACT’s signing a year ago, the BPU released guidance on light-duty vehicle infrastructure investments by the state’s four electric utilities, and requires them to submit EV plans by February, 2021. The largest portion of filings will focus on make-ready infrastructure—ensuring companies and property owners wishing to install charging infrastructure have the utility service needed to do so. Currently two utilities, PSE&G and Atlantic City Electric, have filings in front of the BPU, with the remaining two expected shortly.
However, we are still waiting on guidance from the BPU on the utilities role in supporting electric trucks and buses, which is set to be released sometime this year. This will be vital to ensuring proper integration of EVs onto the grid, especially as the state moves forward with its commitment to electrifying trucks.
Medium and Heavy-Duty Electrification
The PIV Act called on NJ DEP to develop MHDV goals by the end of 2020. DEP went much further. First, in July NJ signed a 15-state memorandum of understanding that calls for 30 percent of new truck and bus sales to be zero-emission by 2030 and 100 percent zero-emission by 2050. Then, in December, the DEP announced New Jersey would be the first state outside of California to adopt the Advanced Clean Truck (ACT) and Heavy-Duty Omnibus rules as part of tis Protecting Against Climate Threats (PACT) regulatory overhaul.
Looking Ahead to 2021 and Beyond
2020 was a banner year when it comes to legislation and state programs to advance transportation electrification. The state made impressive progress across all of the pillars of transportation electrification, especially in light of the ongoing pandemic. Despite the progress, New Jersey will have to continue working towards both policy development and implementation meet the goals of the PIV ACT.
The agenda for 2021 is already crowded with additional utility EV filings due next month, MHDV vehicle guidance by the BPU by mid-year, the promulgation of the NJ PACT regulations in April, and more EDA programs expected shortly.
Stay tuned for our next blog in the series, which will explore the ins and outs of utility EV policy, the results of the two proposed utility-run EV programs in front of the BPU, and that role that utilities should play in the MHDV infrastructure space.