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New Jersey Eyes All-Electric Vehicle Shift by 2035

In a report published last week by the state Department of Environmental Protection, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has recommended that by 2035 all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold in the state be zero-emission.

by Michael Sol Warren, nj.com / October 20, 2020
Tesla drivers recharge their vehicles at the Joyce Kilmer service area on the New Jersey Turnpike. A bill in the state senate could add more charging stations to meet a goal to add 330,000 electric vehicles by 2025. TNS

(TNS) — In an effort to mitigate the long-term impacts of climate change, Gov. Phil Murphy is pushing New Jersey towards a carbon-free future. For that to happen, gas and diesel cars have to go.

The transportation sector is New Jersey’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Currently, about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the Garden State are estimated to come from trucks, cars, planes, buses, trains and ships.

In a new report published last week by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Murphy administration has recommended that by 2035, all new cars, SUVs and light trucks sold in the state be zero-emission vehicles.

The DEP’s new recommendation is currently non-binding, but it would surpass two targets already set by state law: To have 330,000 electric cars registered in New Jersey by 2025, and 2 million registered by 2035. For comparison, more than 6.3 million cars and light trucks were registered in New Jersey at the end of last year.

On the West Coast, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order last month directing his state to develop regulations to ensure that 100% of new cars sold in the Golden State by 2035 are zero-emissions.

Murphy’s office did not respond when asked if a similar executive order is expected for New Jersey.

New Jersey’s car dealers are eager to serve as the conduit for change, said Jim Appleton, the president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. But he warned electric vehicles are still too expensive for many consumers, and the state’s underdeveloped charging station network plagues potential customers.

Until those two problems are addressed, Appleton said the state’s 2035 target is a laudable but unrealistic target. Last year, for example, he said less than 10,000 of the new cars sold in the state were electric -- about 2% of the total number of new cars sold.

“Getting consumers to buy is the ultimate endgame. That’s the goal," Appleton said. "The air doesn’t get cleaner if they don’t trade their less environmentally-friendly vehicles for the most environmentally-friendly vehicles.”

The DEP acknowledged those problems in its report, and included a recommendation for massive investment to build charging stations throughout the state. The agency also called for larger incentives to encourage more electric car sales, which would build on a new state law that offers $5,000 incentives for New Jerseyans to buy electric cars.

“As laudable as the 2019 (electric vehicle) law is, it is not nearly enough,” DEP Deputy Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said on Thursday. “We need deeper, deeper incentives that hasten that transition.”

Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, welcomed the DEP’s electric car recommendations last week as one of the most impactful parts of the larger report.

“Hopefully, they will set the standards so that we can meet that demand and get enough (electric vehicles) on the road,” Tittel said, referring to the Murphy administration.

But that praise isn’t universal. Melissa Miles, the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance, said she supports the state’s 2035 target for passenger vehicles, but would like to see more progress on replacing heavier-duty diesel engines in the state. And she’d like to see the state take steps to boost ridership on public transportation, to reduce traffic in general.

Doing those things, Miles said, would do more to improve air quality in environmental justice communities -- areas where typically low-income residents of color deal with high levels of pollution.

“We’re not against electrification of cars, but we feel like that’s not going to get us to the goals we want to see for (environmental justice) communities quickly enough,” Miles said.

©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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