N.J. calls for 100% EVs by 2035, a first for East Coast

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 19, 2020

New Jersey officials called last week for a ban on gas car sales by 2035, a move that would make the state the first outside California to enact such a policy.

The proposal from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) came as part of an official road map that would allow the state to reach its goal of 80% carbon dioxide reductions by 2050.

Over half a million gas cars are sold in the state every year. But to stay in line with climate goals, New Jersey must pass laws and regulations to convert all of those sales to electrics by 2035, it said.

Utility regulators along with environmental and economic development officials should “facilitate a complete transition away from gasoline-powered vehicles” by that date by ensuring that at least 110,000 new electric vehicles are sold every year through 2025, the plan said.

DEP’s recommendations came less than a month after California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered his state’s regulators to draw up rules for a 2035 gas car ban.

The office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) did not comment on whether the governor would issue a similar directive. But a press release quoted Murphy describing the road map as “a call-to-action for all of us in government and in New Jersey to roll up our sleeves and craft the next generation of climate-focused laws and policies.”

Pam Frank, CEO of ChargEVC, an EV advocacy coalition, said she thought the state would take “a good, hard look” at following California.

“It’s not just the governor [who could act],” she added. “We also have a Legislature that’s been pretty willing to entertain clean energy initiatives.”

For the 2035 ban to be fully implemented, either the governor or the Legislature would need to take additional action by enacting a law or through executive directives.

Few other states have contemplated phasing out the gas car. But plans from several Democratic candidates for president this year included such a target, putting a spotlight on the idea. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s own platform takes aim at 100% EV sales without an accompanying timeline. And California’s step has unleashed speculation that other states would follow, as they have with the Golden State’s zero-emissions program for car sales.

At least one other state, Colorado, has a 100% electric car sales mandate in its sights. In April, officials there released an EV plan with a 100% EV mandate but did not assign a precise timeline.

The state of Washington also considered a 2030 ban on new gas cars in a bill earlier this year, but it failed to pass the Legislature (Energywire, Feb. 14).

New Jersey’s governor and its Democratic-controlled Legislature have aimed to position the state as a national leader on clean energy, enacting one of the country’s first laws to zero out CO2 emissions from its power sector.

Last year, a separate law created new rebates for electric cars, while setting a 330,000-EV sales target for 2025 and requiring all state-owned vehicles to be electric by a decade later.

New Jersey still lacks a source of clean transportation revenue comparable with California’s cap-and-trade program, and utility proposals to build out statewide networks of chargers have sat untouched by regulators, noted Frank.

But she added that the gas car ban recommendation from state officials reflected a profound shift in discussions around clean transportation, on the federal and state level.

“Two years ago, I would’ve said, are you crazy? We can’t even talk about a ban. I think that’s a conversation today,” she said.