By Margaret Berei 

New Jersey is many things, including the middleman of the
Mid-Atlantic, the most densely populated state in the nation, and a
suburban state that was driven by the expansion of car travel. Winding
highways and parkways connect each corner of this state, so it is no
surprise that the transportation sector makes up 41% of New Jersey’s
greenhouse gas emissions. This number is exceedingly high in
comparison to the national average of 28%.

These highways and our vehicle’s high emissions have a large effect on
New Jersey residents’ health and safety. The transportation sector
contributes greatly to air pollution through the emission of
particulate matter and advances the formation of ground level ozone
(smog). Both trigger respiratory illnesses including asthma.
Particulate matter (PM) has been linked with cardiovascular issues and
even premature death. Not surprisingly, communities with poor air
quality are also more likely to have more severe and sometimes fatal
cases of COVID-19.

The transportation sector is the highest contributor of carbon dioxide
in the nation, the most abundant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere
which is greatly contributing to climate change. To maintain our
security on Planet Earth, we must combat climate change with as much
force as possible. A vital step towards a fossil fuel free future is
the electrification of the transportation sector.

At the beginning of 2020, Governor Murphy released his comprehensive
Energy Master Plan to strategically guide New Jersey towards a clean
energy future with his primary goal being 100% clean energy by 2050.
The first overarching strategy of his plan is to mitigate the
transportation sector’s emissions. The first goal under this strategy
is to have 330,000 light duty electric vehicles on the road by 2025.
Based on registered vehicle data, there were only 34,038 registered
electric vehicles in New Jersey as of June 2020, making up about 0.56%
of the total registered vehicles in the state. The outlook to achieve
the targets laid out in the Energy Master Plan are aggressive but not
impossible. To make these goals by 2025, we need all hands on deck.

Charge Up New Jersey, run through the Board of Public Utilities, is
Governor Murphy’s primary, but far from only, program to get
light-duty vehicles, passenger cars and pick-up trucks, to the 330,000
vehicle target by 2025. Created in January 2020 and officially opened
for payments in May of last year, the program provides up to $5,000 in
post-purchase rebates for eligible vehicles.

Incentives were provided on a first come first serve basis in phase 1,
so the program’s success was dependent on the amount of funds approved
for its use. The popularity of this program was so great that the
funds allocated for fiscal year 2021 were completely snapped up by
December of 2020, resulting in the premature but temporary closure of
the program until this July.

While the phrase “premature closure” may have a negative connotation,
phase 1 of Charge Up New Jersey was a huge success. The full $30
million allocated to the program, under the EV Law, continues to be
dispersed to applicants who purchased eligible vehicles prior to
December 15, 2020, with the applicant portal closing on March 15,
2021. Due to this full funding in FY21, the program is on track to
getting 6,000 new electric vehicles on the road. However, while
progress is definitely being made, we are still far away from the
target of 330,000 light duty electric vehicles with the deadline
approaching in only 4 years. Electric vehicles and its needed
infrastructure must be a focus moving forward.

Phase 2 of the Charge Up New Jersey Program will be similar to that of
phase 1 except the rebate will be executed right at the point of sale,
simplifying the program and increasing its potential use. Currently,
phase 2 is set to begin in July of 2021. At that time, the public will
be able to access the funds allocated to the program under fiscal year
2022 budget.

To best reach Governor Murphy's goals, we need to continue to incentivize
electric vehicles while simultaneously building out our charging
infrastructure across the state. Without the mileage security provided
by these electric vehicle charging stations, Charge Up New Jersey and
other vital electrification programs will not be optimized. With the
continued success of Charge Up New Jersey and other electrification
initiatives in conjunction with an increase in charging
infrastructure, the public’s health will benefit, protecting
generations for years to come.