The electric vehicle (EV) is gradually becoming a very popular form of daily transportation across the United States. As manufacturers continue to improve driving ranges and more charging stations go online, the viability of electric vehicles becomes more obvious. That is especially true in New Jersey, where the average work commute lasts for more than half an hour.
The time that it takes to commute to work in New Jersey is the third-longest in the nation. Only New York and Maryland have average commutes that take longer than 31.7 minutes than New Jersey motorists spend traveling to work. Nearly 16 percent of New Jersey drivers have to travel more than an hour to get to work each day.
With those kinds of daily commutes, gas prices going higher and climate change concerns gripping many coastal areas and near-coastal states, electric cars are becoming much more popular.
Four Kinds of Electric Vehicles and Hybrids
Electric vehicles and hybrids fall under four general types. All of them use batteries either exclusively or the majority of the time. The four types of electric vehicles and hybrids that motorists register in New Jersey are:
- Plug-In Hybrids
- Battery Electric Vehicles
- Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
- Neighborhood Electric Vehicles
Plug-in hybrids mostly use battery power to cause the drive wheels to roll. They also have gasoline-powered internal combustion engines that provide two functions. The first is to charge the electric battery when it gets low on power. The second is to power the vehicle when the battery no longer has enough juice to do its job.
The battery-powered EV relies only on battery power to make it move. Owners recharge the battery at home or at recharging stations. Many also use braking power, called regenerative braking, to help recharge batteries. The driving range and battery power can vary greatly from one model to the next.
Fuel-cell vehicles use hydrogen gas to cause a reaction with oxygen inside the fuel cell. The chemical reaction creates electrical power that makes the drive wheels roll. Fuel cell vehicles only produce water and heat as byproducts and do not emit harmful gasses from an exhaust.
Neighborhood EVs are mostly golf carts with rechargeable batteries that people can use to get around a neighborhood. Most are low-speed vehicles that cannot exceed 25 mph. They rely only on battery power to make the wheels spin.
Neighborhood electrics are great for use in gated communities and others with low speed limits and local stores where shopping can be done quickly, easily and affordably. Many states allow registration of neighborhood electrics and their use on public roads with low speed limits.
The Rise in New Jersey EV Registrations
Motorists in New Jersey have adopted the new electric vehicles at much higher rates than drivers in most other states. New Jersey motorists registered 41,096 electric vehicles as of December 2021. Eight years earlier, in 2012, that number was only 338. Improvements in the types and quantities of electric vehicles are helping to make them more viable. So is improved access to charging stations throughout the state and beyond.
Among the 41,096 registrations in New Jersey, 28,869 are for battery-powered EVs and 12,227 for plug-in hybrid EVs. Hybrids dominated the state market among EVs until 2018. That is the year that battery-powered EV registrations in New Jersey surpassed hybrids for the first time.
New Jersey motorists registered 10,566 hybrids and 11,670 battery-powered EVs in 2018 for a total of 22,236 registered electric vehicles. So New Jersey gained 18,860 registered EVs in just two years. That is an about 85 percent growth in the number of EVs registered to drive on state roads in a very short time.
Northeastern U.S. Climate Supports EV Usage
Part of the reason New Jersey is among national leaders in electric vehicle registrations is due to the generally good climate for them. The Northeastern United States has cold days that are kept relatively moderate due to the nearby Atlantic Ocean. The ocean also helps to keep the local weather from overheating during summer months.
So most of the time, the weather conditions are ideal for using an electric vehicle without suffering from increased discharge rates from the batteries. Extreme heat and extreme cold are the primary enemies of electric vehicles. Every 25 degrees change in temperature doubles the discharge rate on a battery.
Batteries generally last their longest when the outdoor temperature is anywhere from 50 degrees to about 70 degrees. A 25-degree change that is either hotter or cooler than those temperatures can cause electric batteries to lose their energy twice as fast. Another 25-degree change would double the discharge rate by double that amount. So a 50-degree difference in seasonal temperatures could cause batteries to discharge their stored energy four times faster.
Extreme heat like that experienced in the Desert Southwest and extreme cold like what northern states in the Great Plains and Great Lakes regions experience is especially troublesome for the batteries in electric vehicles and normal car batteries. Fortunately, that is not the case in New Jersey.
About 80 percent of the time, the outdoor temperature is ideal for driving electric vehicles in New Jersey. The outdoor temperature causes a minimal loss of battery power and driving range on about 14 percent of days during the year, according to the Alternative Fuels Vehicle Report.
Another 6 percent of days get either so cold or so hot that they moderately reduce stored battery power and range. And just 1 percent of days have outdoor temperatures that cause a large reduction in battery power and driving range.
Growing Popularity of EVs
Driving much of the rising popularity in EV ownership is the ability to quickly recharge batteries. Most home wall outlets will put about 50 miles worth of battery power into an EV battery while charging overnight. If that battery normally holds about 250 miles worth of charge and is empty, that wall outlet will take two full days of charging to top off the battery.
But faster systems are available and capable of doing the job much better.
An optional 240-volt charging system could boost the charge rate so that about five hours of charging could top off a car battery. Many places of work, parking garages and commercial centers with car charging stations use 240-volt charging systems.
While the 240-volt system provides a good level of battery power for an extended driving range, it is not capable of the kind of fast charging that people need to drive long distances. But there is a system that can.
That system is DC fast-charging and is growing in availability around the nation. Big car companies like Ford and GM are partnering with research organizations and universities to develop the kinds of fast-charging systems needed to make buying EV vehicles much more sensible for everyday drivers.
A DC fast-charging system currently could deliver about 80 percent of an EV battery’s full charge in as little as 15 minutes. Slower systems could take closer to an hour to deliver the same level of juice. But that still makes it possible to travel 500 miles or so in a day without having to wait several hours for charging systems to work.
However, a general lack of DC fast-charging stations is holding up the works. GM has partnered with EVgo to enable motorists in up to 52 metropolitan areas to visit and use DC fast-charging stations. You can bet New Jersey residents will have access to several of those stations soon.
New Jersey Efforts to Increase EV Ownership
Within five years, the potential for wide distribution of DC fast-charging stations could make buying an EV car an easy decision for many more New Jersey Residents. So are the efforts of the New Jersey government to encourage more residents to drive electric and leave the internal combustion engine parked.
The state currently offers up to a $5,000 incentive to purchase or lease a new EV in New Jersey. The vehicles must be new and have zero emissions to qualify for the state incentive. New Jersey will pay buyers of qualifying EVs $25 per mile in EPA-estimated travel range on a single charge.
Qualifying vehicles must be rated for more than 200 miles of range while using only battery power. With an up-to $5,000 incentive on top of any tax breaks available when buying a new vehicle, the initial cost of buying a qualifying EV becomes much more affordable.
Such incentives, as well as improvements in the general availability and speed of EV charging stations, are helping to keep New Jersey ahead of the curve in EV adoption.