Will NJ’s EV mandate and rebates drive car buyers to go electric?

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Dave Bye of Eatontown wanted to buy an electric vehicle, but when his condo association refused to let him install a charger in his parking lot or on one of their lots, his dreams died like a dead battery.

Byer, 39, then tried the nearby train station where he parks for his commute. He said he was told there were no plans to install chargers on the commuter route.

Disappointed, but not entirely deterred, Byer bought a plug-in hybrid, instead of the all-electric vehicle he originally hoped to buy.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Byer said.

New Jersey officials have determined that all sales of new passenger cars – at least all cars weighing less than 8,500 pounds – must be electric or plug-in electric hybrid by 2035. But significant challenges remain for buyers embracing electric.

The options for public charging are limited. Experts say New Jersey rebate programs for purchasing electric vehicles are so popular that they are quickly drying up. Additionally, about half of the state’s population says they have no plans to give up gas-powered vehicles.

Why is NJ pushing for electric vehicles?

New Jersey and 16 other states, led by California, have adopted all or part of the so-called “Advance Clean Cars II” rules. The rules do not require New Jersey car buyers to purchase an electric vehicle, but the program is expected to boost production in the electric vehicle market and help support the expansion of existing charging infrastructure.

The goal is to make 100% of new vehicle sales, across passenger cars, SUVs and lightweight trucks, ‘zero emissions’ by the year 2035. The program also has stricter emissions standards for gas-powered cars and trucks. The reasoning is that transportation is responsible for 37% of New Jersey’s climate-changing pollution emissions, state officials said.

“The steps we take today to reduce emissions will improve air quality and mitigate climate impacts for generations to come, while increasing access to cleaner car choices,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a statement in November. “Indeed, along with my administration’s continued investments in voluntary electric vehicle incentives, charging infrastructure and the green economy, these new standards will preserve consumer choice and promote affordability for hardworking New Jerseyans across the state.”

The Advance Clean Cars II mandate, as outlined by the California Air Resources Board, plans a phased approach where 35% of new vehicle sales will be electric or plug-in hybrid by 2026.

New Jersey still has a long way to go to meet that standard within two years. Last year, less than 2% of cars and light trucks on New Jersey roads were electric vehicles, according to data collected by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Convincing more people to switch may prove more difficult than enacting a state mandate. A recent poll from Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling found that half of New Jersey residents did not support the electric vehicle mandate. Nearly half of respondents thought their finances would suffer under the new rule.

“There is an intense layer of complexity to the issue,” said Ashley Koning, assistant research professor and director of the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. “This is an issue… that is very political, very stigmatized and politically charged.”

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The acceptance or rejection of New Jersey’s push for electric vehicles follows political party lines, with 68% of New Jersey Democrats supporting the electric vehicle mandate. In contrast, only 15% of New Jersey Republicans support the measure.

“When we add up the level of support and the level of opposition, I see that New Jerseyans are really divided on this,” Koning said.

EVs remain more expensive than gas-powered cars

One of the main barriers to electric vehicle adoption remains cost, say advocates and critics alike. In general, electric vehicles remain more expensive than their gas counterparts.

For example, an electric Hyundai Kona sells for about $8,000 more than its gas version. Honda’s all-electric 2024 Prologue SUV has an MSRP that’s about $7,000 higher than the price tag of the company’s popular CR-V line.

Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, or NJ CAR, said the cost difference could be unaffordable for many car buyers.

“The dealers are all in on electric vehicles,” Appleton said. “The manufacturers have spent hundreds of billions of dollars. New Jersey dealers alone have spent several hundred million dollars preparing to sell and service electric cars. None of this is about what the dealers want.”

New Jersey offers a $4,000 rebate for the purchase and lease of new electric vehicles. Appleton said the state incentives are “on again, off again” and don’t completely close the price gap.

Buyers can also take advantage of a $7,500 federal tax credit for purchasing certain electric vehicles. Additionally, New Jersey does not charge sales tax on electric vehicles and offers a $250 rebate for installing a home charger.

Another problem is that not all electric vehicles meet the standards to qualify for rebates, Appleton said.

“There’s a lot of interest on the part of consumers to buy an electric car, but when it comes time to actually put down money, they’re not ready yet,” Appleton said. “And they are not likely to be ready (or) in compliance with government mandates. This is causing a lot of concern among new car dealers and automakers.”

Challenges in charging electric vehicles

While public sentiment remains an obstacle to electrifying New Jersey’s transportation sector, a key challenge remains: installing a comprehensive network of chargers across the state.

Shane Skwarek, 38, from Stafford fell in love with electric driving, but when he and his wife bought his first electric car he faced a new challenge.

“I’ll be honest, we were mortified at the idea of ​​charging for this thing,” Skwarek said. “If we hadn’t had a supercharger at a Wawa maybe a mile from our house, we probably would have shied away from buying it.”

A charge of about 10 minutes was all the vehicle needed, and with some planning for charging stops on longer trips, the car proved to be no problem, he said. Less than two years after purchasing the vehicle, Skwarek and his wife installed a charger in their home. Now they are considering purchasing a second EV.

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Skwarek said he will encourage anyone who is skeptical about an electric vehicle to try one.

“I literally gave them my keys (for a test drive),” he said.

Across New Jersey, public access to EV chargers remains somewhat limited. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, there are 1,264 public EV charging ports for public use across 382 locations. Of those, 70 locations were in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Despite the restrictions, electric vehicle drivers can still travel long distances, said Stanislav Jaracz, acting president of the New Jersey Electric Vehicle Association. Jaracz said he recently took his family of four to Orlando in his electric car and made plans for charging stops.

“It’s a hurdle, but it’s still doable,” he said.

Jaracz said people haven’t embraced electric vehicles yet because the technology is still somewhat new, but he expects that to change as electric vehicles become more mainstream.

With “stackable” rebates and incentives from the federal and state government, the cost of electric vehicles is now more comparable to the prices of gasoline vehicles, he said.

“I think with electric vehicles… When you hear from your peers, from your family, ‘I have an electric car and I don’t have a problem,’ it’s much more powerful than when they hear it from people like me,” said he.

Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who is involved in education and the environment. She has been working in the press for more than ten years. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, aoglesby@gannettnj.com or 732-557-5701.

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