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New Jersey Will Transition to All Electric New Car Sales by 2035

Transportation emissions accounted for 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, the most of any sector. The Advanced Clean Cars II mandate will require 51 percent of new car sales to be electric in 2027.

an EV charger lit with green lights
Electric vehicle chargers in Hackensack, New Jersey on Thursday, September 14, 2023.
Chris Krusberg|TNS
New Jersey will require all new car sales to be electric by 2035 with some requirements starting in 2026 as part of a series of new regulations, an administrative official in Gov. Phil Murphy’s office confirmed to NJ Advance Media on Monday.

The rule that will make the mandate possible will be filed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, officials in the governor’s office added.

The filing of “Advanced Clean Cars II” before a deadline that was looming Wednesday will mean car makers must start to follow some zero emission vehicle requirements, beginning with light duty cars in model year 2027 — the ones that hit the market in 2026.

An official in the governor’s office did not comment further, but more information on how the rule will impact drivers is expected Tuesday.

Still, the rule follows California’s lead — requiring manufacturers that make cars, light trucks and SUVs to fill more and more of their fleets with electric options over several years until reaching 100 percent zero-emission vehicles in just over a decade.

The rule will require 51 percent of all new car sales to be electric in 2027.

“Our state needs to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution and after this announcement, we are no longer sitting in the slow lane while other states pass us by on clean energy,” said Alex Ambrose, the transportation and climate policy analyst for New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Transportation emissions, Ambrose highlighted, have been on the rise since 2020 and account for 35 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey — the most of any sector.

The latest clean energy rule, dubbed ACCII, followed a roller coaster two months for the state and Murphy, a Democrat, after the world’s largest offshore wind developer at the end of October suddenly did an about-face on what would have been New Jersey’s first ocean wind farm.

ACCII is an administrative rule, not a law, and thus does not need to be approved by the state Legislature. However, a future administration can change course on New Jersey’s commitment to the regulation.

Climate advocates on Monday still rejoiced the adoption of ACCII, saying it will translate to more than 90,000 more electric vehicles on New Jersey roads by 2030.

“One of our biggest sectors is the transportation sector and one of the biggest sources that’s contributing a lot of co-pollutants, as well as carbon, is our light-duty vehicles,” Anjuli Ramos-Busot, the director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said Monday.

“Unfortunately, New Jersey’s environmental justice communities are intertwined in very congested roadways, particularly going into North Jersey and going closer into New York City,” Ramos-Busot added. “Us being positioned as a transportation hub in between two major cities like New York City and Philadelphia, this program is literally life saving.”

Murphy in February announced the state’s intention to follow the clean car rule, which he called necessary as climate change continues to create for harmful conditions in New Jersey and is only expected to worsen.

Critics of the regulations have called ACCII rushed while pointing to the significant need for additional electric vehicle chargers across New Jersey and more affordable electric and hybrid cars. Many have also claimed the grid will not be able to handle an influx of electric vehicles. But even some supporters have also conceded that the ambitious timeline can only be met with additional investments in building electricity infrastructure in a variety of ways.

“When our fragile electric grid is already struggling to keep up with demand, it seems like an enormous risk to force all of our homes, businesses, and cars to electrify,” state Sen. Steven Oroho, R- Sussex, said earlier this year. “There’s no redundancy and there’s no safety net.”

Environmentalists have countered with arguments saying the grid will be bolstered to handle the demand over time, EV costs are expected to drop as the market widens and current price tags are more palatable through the availability of $7,500 in federal tax credits and another $4,000 in potential rebates from Charge Up New Jersey.

Some have also cast doubt on whether the state can meet the 2035 goal. As of December 2022, electric vehicles made up about 8 percent of new vehicle registrations in New Jersey, according to the DEP.

At the end of June, there were just over 123,000 electric vehicles on the road in New Jersey. Despite the state having some 6 million registered drivers, EVs just made up about 1.8 percent of the light duty vehicles on the road here, according to figures provided by the DEP and the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission.

Ramos-Busot noted that besides the health benefits, the Garden State will also benefit economically from making itself more attractive to electric vehicle automakers.

Besides Tesla announcing it will expand availability to its chargers, the DEP has also previously said it plans to install more chargers to meet demand.

ACCII would be a de-facto ban on sales of new gas-powered cars.

However, state officials say it would not apply to used gas-powered cars and not be a “‘cars on the road’ type of target.”

The rule will also be somewhat flexible.

Car manufacturers will be able to meet 20 percent of their annual zero-emission vehicle requirement with credits from plug-in hybrids that meet certain benchmarks.

In addition, the companies targeting the state’s annual sale requirements will be able to use partial credits they earn by taking certain steps like selling plug-in hybrids, lower priced zero-emission cars or electric vehicles on discount to local transit programs.

The adoption of ACCII this year, Ambrose noted, means reducing light-duty carbon dioxide emissions 72 percent below 2021 levels in 2035.

“This announcement backs up what voters said loud and clear just a few weeks ago: New Jersey won’t buy the fossil fuel industry’s misinformation,” Ambrose said Monday afternoon ahead of the filing.

“Our state needs to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution and after this announcement, we are no longer sitting in the slow lane while other states pass us by on clean energy.”

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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