NJ Planned to Help People Buy Electric Cars With a $5,000 Rebate. Now, Not So Much

Credit: (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
File photo: Oct. 17, 2018, a hybrid car being charged. $16 million has been lopped from $30 million annual rebate fund for the purchase of such vehicles.

The state has cut $16 million from a much-touted new program designed to help motorists buy electric vehicles by offering rebates of up to $5,000 to cushion the cost of zero emission vehicles.

The program was a key component of a comprehensive law signed this past January to electrify New Jersey’s transportation sector, a goal considered crucial to achieving the state’s ambitious goals to significantly curb greenhouse-gas emissions here.

But with state revenues declining because of the coronavirus pandemic that has shut down large parts of the economy, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities had to approve a three-month extension of its clean-energy program. In doing so, it shifted funds and ended up reducing its funding for electric vehicle rebates by $16 million.

Under the law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this year, the state was supposed to allocate $30 million annually over the next decade for the rebate program, which is funded by a surcharge on customers’ electric and gas bills to pay for New Jersey’s clean-energy program.

While disappointed in the multimillion-dollar cut, electric vehicle advocates acknowledged that unusual circumstances had forced the BPU’s hand.

Not unexpected

“I don’t think it is unexpected. The state needs to tighten its budget,’’ said Jim Appleton, president of the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, a group that pushed hard for the rebate funding. “Under the current circumstances, I’d be hard-pressed to see how they could begin to draw down that money.’’

The rebates were viewed as essential to jump-starting the transition to zero emission vehicles in the light-duty vehicle market. The Murphy administration wants 330,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road by 2025; as of June, the state had more than…

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