New Jersey works to offer more charging stations for electric cars

New Jersey has about 20 charging stations but is working to put more at gas stations, malls, garages, and other public places.
New Jersey has about 20 charging stations but is working to put more at gas stations, malls, garages, and other public places. (JEFF KOWALSKY / Bloomberg News)
Posted: November 08, 2011

Gray Russell has been driving a Toyota Prius for six years. The hybrid vehicle totes him from his Montclair home to his workplace at the municipality every day - about a five-mile round-trip commute.

Russell's old Prius doesn't have a plug-in component, so he doesn't need to use one of Montclair's four charging stations to power the vehicle. But once he starts test-driving the new Prius, that will change.

Like other newer hybrid models, including the Chevrolet Volt, the new Toyota Prius can run gas-free for a set number of miles, powered only by a lithium-ion battery. The kicker: That battery needs to be charged.

New Jersey has about 20 operational public electric-vehicle charging stations, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, but the DEP is working with a regional network to install more - at gas stations, malls, parking garages, and other convenient public places.

Last month, New Jersey signed on to the Northeast Electric Vehicle Network, an outgrowth of the regional Transport and Climate Initiative (TCI). The network also includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.

The Northeast network could contribute up to 200,000 electric vehicles to President Obama's call for one million plug-in vehicles to be in use across the country by 2015, according to a report by the Environment News Service.

The network's goal is to move the region "from a fossil-fuel economy to a clean-energy economy," New Jersey's DEP says.

One of the TCI's first projects is collaborating to install more charging stations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

"They're being installed already. This project will (allow) the 10 states and D.C. to work together to set policies on a state level that will support what's already happening," said Andrea Friedman, policy analyst in the DEP's Office of Climate and Energy.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Pittsburgh Regional Clean Cities will receive a $238,467 alternative-fuels incentive grant to install 45 charging stations along Interstate 376 and in surrounding areas.

According to Friedman, New Jersey's DEP will look into installing two types of EV chargers: the Level 2 charger and the "fast charger." A Level 2 requires four to eight hours to completely charge a battery. A "fast charger" takes 10 to 30 minutes. The King of Prussia mall outside Philadelphia has two Level 2 chargers.

Another type, Level 3, is under development, Friedman said. Called the AC, for "alternating current" charger, it would fully power an electric vehicle in minutes.

Although that charger is "not ready for prime time yet," Friedman said the DEP would consider installing it in public EV charging stations once it is released.

Friedman says she does not know how large the market is for electric vehicles in New Jersey. She calls it "relatively small" but says she sees opportunities for growth.

"We think the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic area is the perfect place for electric vehicles because it's dense," Friedman said. "People are making short commutes, and electric vehicles are ideal for short commutes."

Russell says he can't wait to try out the new Prius, a hybrid EV, during his commutes. As the environmental coordinator for the Township of Montclair, he was instrumental in making Montclair the first town in New Jersey to install public EV charging stations.

Montclair received a $25,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. last year to install the charging stations. The town installed four, all in its business districts, in September. They became operational last month.

"Just as you see hybrids all over the place, soon you'll see pluggable EVs all over the place," Russell said. "I do think it's going to transform the automotive industry in America."


Contact staff writer Emily Brill at 856-779-3882 or ebrill@philly.com.

|
|
|
|
|