I don’t know if it’s because they’re high tech, because they’re novel, or if I’m just weird, but I get excited everytime I see an electric car in the wild. My family knows this about me, so they’ll point to an electric vehicle (EV) charger or an EV just driving down the street (If I haven’t pointed it out first!)

Luckily, people are catching on to just how awesome EVs are, and it’s almost starting to get hard to point out every electric car I see on the road. But with the growing number of electric vehicles comes the problem of where are we going to charge all of these vehicles?

If you look around New Jersey, you’ll notice that you can’t drive more than maybe three minutes in any direction without encountering a gas station. They’re always super obvious - large, very well marked, and often other cars are coming in and out. On the contrary, electric vehicle charging stations are often inconspicuous. To the gas car driver, it probably just looks like some strange machine over there in the parking lot, and the sign indicating there’s a charger probably misses the eye entirely. But that doesn’t mean that EV chargers don’t exist.

New Jersey has 644 public electric vehicle charging stations with more than 1,000 charging ports. These chargers are located all across the state, in every county and every location you can imagine - hotels, libraries, offices, malls, car dealerships, highway rest stops, and more. However, many people are still uncomfortable with the idea of switching from a gasoline to an electric car because they are worried about finding a place to charge. I don’t blame them; most people don’t have the NJDEP’s map of charging stations bookmarked so they can find a charging station. (Although you can use apps like PlugShare to find charging stations nearby!)

What this does mean, however, is that New Jersey needs to continue its concerted effort to build out a wider network of EV charging stations. There should be charging stations at every workplace, at every rest stop, and in every downtown across the state. This will not only make it so gas car drivers can no longer miss those weird machines in the parking lot, but also so EV drivers are never more than a few miles away from a charge. 

For this to happen, municipalities will have to take advantage of both state and federal grant opportunities and install charging stations all across town. No matter how small your town is, there is always a location or two that could use an EV charger. Maybe it’s the local grocery store, or the library, or the community center - wherever people go regularly and spend an hour or more so they can get a good charge.

To help municipalities make this investment in a smart, educated way, and just make the process easier, Environment New Jersey created a toolkit guiding town officials through the entire process. The toolkit, Charge Local: A Guide to Installing EV Charging Stations for Municipalities, walks through every step of the process from determining what type of charging station you need, to what permits are required, to what signs you should put up to mark off the space. It also points the reader to plenty of other materials, including funding sources, to help make installing charging stations a breeze. Lastly, you can find case studies from towns big and small, including Morristown, Princeton, Montclair to learn from real life examples of installing EV chargers in downtowns.

Once all 565 municipalities in New Jersey have installed charging stations in their downtowns, and more continue to pop up at malls, workplaces, hotels, and rest stops, driving electric will be a breeze. Sooner than later, I will have to start pointing out all the people who are still driving gasoline cars and think about how hard it must be to find a gas station.