Electric vehicle advocates bring road show to Trenton

TRENTON – The 2012 Nissan Leaf sat gleaming in front of the Statehouse.

Assemblyman Tim Eustace, (D-38), Paramus, has a Leaf of his own.

“I can’t drive it here,’’ he said today. Charging stations – or lack of them – remains one of the issues affecting the potential proliferation of cleaner vehicles statewide.

The Senate Energy Committee last week passed a bill to set up a Clean Car Commission and also held a discussion on a package of clean car bills. And next Monday the committee is scheduled to continue consideration of these bills.

Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, wants to whittle down and consolidate these bills into a set of proposals that the Legislature can vote on later this year.

Coinciding with that ongoing effort to promote the sales, infrastructure and tax breaks associated with electric cars, hybrids, and zero emission vehicles, advocates displayed several electric cars – including a Tesla – at the Statehouse today, and touted what they said is the necessity for and advantages of such technology.

“It is vitally important,” Eustace said, “if we want energy independence.”

He said some of the bills being considered now were vetoed in previous sessions, so it is incumbent upon supporters of such cars to stress the economic benefits such as in-state manufacturing, as well as to emphasize tax breaks to encourage a greater number of charging stations and placing them in more convenient locations such as toll road rest stops.

“It’s a visibility thing,’’ Eustace said. “If people see there is a charging station, they say ‘I can make it from A to B.’”

And the economics have to be convincing for consumers. Eustace said that he gave up paying about $300 a month for gas.

Michael Craner, co-founder of the Renew America Roadtrip that brought the electric cars to Trenton today, brought up another issue: homeland security.

Electric vehicles can help wean America off dependence on fossil fuels produced in unstable and unfriendly nations, he explained.

“Renewable energy is critical to our national defense,’’ he said.

To demonstrate belief in the cause, the Roadtrip is bringing the vehicles to all Mid-Atlantic state capitals – they were in Harrisburg Monday – as they continue their campaign to champion cleaner vehicles.

“Ninety percent of us drive less than 30 miles a day,” he said, which should help improve the allure of electric vehicles in the nation’s most densely populated state.

When the Senate panel reconvenes Monday, some of the bills it will take up will target corporate tax breaks for purchasing natural gas vehicles, tax exemptions for some hybrid cars, and having a sales tax exemption for certain fuel-efficient cars.

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Electric vehicle advocates bring road show to Trenton