New Jersey EV Incentives Program Faces Uncertain Future

The state program aimed at encouraging drivers to buy electric vehicles with $5,000 rebates expired in December, falling short of its intended goal. Now, some are wondering if the program will come back.

N.J. wants residents to buy EVs - use once only
A Tesla electric vehicle uses a car charging station in Maplewood on Thursday, April 22. 2021
Advance Media/John Jones
(TNS) — New Jersey is so eager to get more electric vehicles on the road, the state was literally paying residents to buy them.

But that rebate — up to $5,000 in one of the most generous state incentives in the country — expired in December, meaning anyone who bought an EV in the past six months didn’t get that benefit. And it’s unclear when the program will resume.

For months, state officials said they were targeting summer 2021 to again incentivize electric car purchases. But here we are on the cusp of summer, and the restart date has yet to be announced.

“Phase two will begin this summer, however the specific date has yet to be announced,” said Peter Peretzman, spokesman for the state’s Board of Public Utilities, in an email Monday.

In January 2020, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill that paved the way for an ambitious expansion of electric vehicle infrastructure in the state. Among the provisions were the $5,000 rebate for EV purchases and investment in a network of charging stations.

The state aims to get at least 330,000 registered EVs by 2025. But there were only 41,000 electric cars registered in New Jersey around the time the rebate expired in December, according to data from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Rebates are crucial for the quicker adoption of EVs because the cars remain substantially more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts. Even entry-level EVs cost more than $30,000.

Combined with the federal tax credit of up to $7,500, EV drivers in the Garden State were getting as much as $12,500 off the sticker price of their cars, depending on the make and model.

While cost remains a huge hurdle, it’s not the only roadblock keeping more EVs off New Jersey roads.

Charging electric cars remains rather inefficient, particularly for people who can’t charge overnight at home. It can take hours to reach a full change at many of the publicly available chargers. For the hundreds of thousands of apartment-dwellers in the state, having to rely on the public charging infrastructure won’t cut it.

There are fewer than 600 charging stations in New Jersey, according to the DEP. Of those, fewer than 100 can deliver a charge in under an hour. Expanding the fast-charging network is part of the EV bill Murphy signed last year.

The law calls for at least 75 fast-charging stations along major roads in the state, with no more than 25 miles between stations. Each station must have at least two chargers, provide high levels of electricity and cannot use brand-specific technology — so Tesla Superchargers would not be compliant.

So far, the state has only six stations that are compliant, and only two outside of Bergen, Essex, Hudson and Union counties.

The state is in the process of providing grants to install 27 additional compliant fast-charging stations across the state, but officials said the installation hasn’t started. Peg Hanna, the head of the DEP’s Bureau of Mobile Sources and Air Quality Management, said it would take about a year to get those 27 stations up and running.

By that time, the rebate program should have resumed. It remains to be seen if the financial incentives will be enough to overcome the infrastructure challenges so that New Jersey can meet its EV goals by 2025.

Hanna acknowledged the state faces a “steep slope” to do so.

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