TRENTON—Electric cars, still limited in how far they can go before needing to plug in for more juice, will soon be getting a jump start from New Jersey.
The state has launched a $725,000 grant program aimed at encouraging the installation of more electric vehicle charging stations.
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said the program will help improve the affordability of the technology.
“Electric vehicles can play a critical role in helping to improve our air quality,” he said.
According to the state Board of Public Utilities, there are currently 398 charging outlets at 181 locations in New Jersey, based on data kept by the federal Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center. BPU President Richard Mroz said the grant program will encourage greater use of electric vehicles as well as plug-in hybrids, by expanding the infrastructure network needed to keep alternative-fueled vehicles on the road in New Jersey.
A BPU spokesman said while the state has not yet established goal for the number of charging stations needed, he noted that a study from the National Research Council calculated that one public charging station is needed for every 2.5 electric vehicles in the state, and one public DC “fast charging” station for every 1,000 electric vehicles—a threshold New Jersey has yet to reach.
Similar incentive programs for charging stations are already being put into place around the country. Earlier this year, Avista, a Spokane, Wash.-based utility, unveiled a two-year program to install up to 265 recharging stations.
Joel Levin, executive director of Plug In America, a California-based advocacy group for electric vehicles, said expanding the charging station infrastructure is vital to the acceptance of the technology.
“It’s a chick and egg thing,” he said. “You need cars and you need infrastructure. They go hand in hand.”
Levin said an increasing number of states and utilities across the country have begun offering rebates, tax incentives as well as grants to encourage the construction of more charging stations, giving drivers more reasons to switch to electric models.
Still, there has to be a different mindset when driving an electric vehicle, which takes longer to charge than filling up at the local service station.
“With electric vehicles, the vast number of cars are charged at work or at home. Think of it more like a cell phone—imagine going to some special place to charge your cell phone,” said Levin.
Under the first phase of the New Jersey program, reimbursement grants of up to $250 will be offered on a first-come basis for each Level 1 charging station installed, and up to $5,000 for each Level 2 charging station.
Level 1 charging stations provide power through 120 volt lines, but take longer to charge. They add about 2 to 5 miles of range to a plugged-in electric vehicle per hour. Eight hours of charging at 120V can provide about 40 miles of range.
Level 2 stations, which offer more mileage range in a shorter period of time, are connected to 240 or 208 volt dedicated circuits, and can recharge a typical electric vehicle battery overnight.
Public, private, for-profit, nonprofit, educational and governmental entities will be eligible for the grants, as well as owners of parking facilities used by commuters or employees of other companies, officials said.
The BPU said Level 3, or direct current fast chargers, such as those Tesla is most known for, will not be covered by the program, although officials said Tesla’s “Destination Chargers”, which are not DC powered, could potential be eligible.
New Jersey also set up a new website, drivegreen.nj.gov, that will offer information about the program, the types of electric vehicles available, how to charge them, and links to current charging station locations.
“If you can charge your electric vehicle at home and you can charge it at work, that goes a long way to relieving range anxiety,” said John Giordano, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability.