Charged up: Expert sees push for electric vehicle charging stations at logistics centers — to support trucks and other delivery vehicles

While 2021 sets the stage for repaired roads and the refresh of other outmoded transportation infrastructure, there’s an energy component of the spending plan that might help the state prepare for the electric future officials expect for the vehicles traveling along them.

The infrastructure recharge coincides with the administration’s goal of making a transition to electric vehicles over the next decade. Along with electrifying the federal fleet of vehicles, President Joe Biden’s goal is for half of new vehicles sold by 2030 to be electric.

Between that and New Jersey’s own goals, there’s a big expectation that more electric vehicles will be traveling along the state’s roads, highways and bridges. Nationwide, estimates put the amount of electric vehicles on the road by 2030 at a number topping around 20 million.

And yet, various online tracking maps of electric vehicle charging stations regularly display just over 300 publicly available stations for local travelers. Experts say operators of the shipping and delivery fleets that rely on New Jersey’s roads in an economy driven by e-commerce haven’t been much better equipped for electric vehicle charging.

But signs point to that changing, and soon.

The infrastructure law sets aside $5 billion for states to build charging stations out nationwide, particularly in rural and disadvantaged areas. New Jersey’s chunk of that, like other states, will be dished out by its Department of Transportation.

At the same time, groups of energy companies and utilities such as the National Electric Highway Coalition have been formed as recently as this month to get a head start. The member companies of that organization, spearheaded by the Edison Electric Institute, have accrued $3 billion in investments to spend on projects deploying charging infrastructure. Edison Electric Institute predicts that 100,000 more fast charging ports will be needed nationwide by 2030.

Public Service Electric & Gas has joined the initiative and pledged to support 3,000 fast-charging stations along New Jersey’s major highways.

As more electric vehicle charging stations are dispersed for passenger vehicles across the state, Tim Comerford of Princeton-based Biggins Lacy Shapiro & Co. said, there’s an effort underway at logistics centers along main thoroughfares in New Jersey to add even more charging infrastructure for trucks and delivery vans.

Comerford, a former Public Service Enterprise Group leader who now heads an interdisciplinary practice focused on assisting companies and organizations with renewable installations and other infrastructure, said that’s become necessary as distribution and logistics companies shift to electric vehicles.

“Major distribution and logistics companies are looking to establish fast-charging infrastructure to meet their goals and take advantage of incentives to get fleets turned electric,” he said.

Comerford added that it’s a big challenge to get that infrastructure established at sites that never envisioned hosting entire fleets of electric vehicles.

“With changing a fleet over to electric vehicles, there’s a high volume of demand on infrastructure required, and significant work associated with it as well,” he said. “These warehouse areas just don’t often have the infrastructure support for it.”

Regardless, companies in a wide range of sectors — and organizations spanning the public and private sector — are making the investment.

“Many firms are fast-tracking this,” Comerford said. “It’s going to be a big emphasis in New Jersey infrastructure.”

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