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Cape May County’s Future Gets Messy Given the EV Mandate

electric vehicle EV stock
Viktoriia Hnutiak/Shutterstock

Across the nation electric vehicle sales in September hit a new high at 11% of the market. There were 136,000 light-duty EVs sold, up 67% compared to the September of 2022. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, U.S. automakers are poised to invest $210 billion to develop EV manufacturing capabilities.

We are all aware of the government push for electrification of the transportation sector. Gov. Phil Murphy has signed legislation requiring that all new car sales in New Jersey must be comprised of 100% electric vehicles by 2035. The process toward that goal begins in 2026 with the 2027 model year vehicles.

We could debate whether or not the policy to rapidly transition to all electric cars is a well-thought-out goal, but for the moment let’s assume a certain measure of success in filling the roads and highways with battery-driven electric vehicles.

Raising questions about the lack of a proper charging infrastructure would not be new. It has been a worry shared by many as the government push picks up steam. Too often it is a concern that is dismissed by supporters of a total move to EVs.

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It is frankly inconceivable that the powers that be

will be able to deliver enough electricity to enough

chargers to meet Cape May County’s needs in the summer.

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The argument goes along these lines. Research shows that most people who have made the transition to EVs charge their vehicles overnight at home. A garage or carport charger, a full set of overnight hours and mission accomplished. Many of those with EVs today seldom have a need to use public charging stations.

According to research, that is because the people who are currently buying EVs are those who have the easiest path to a home charger. On the other hand, the under 35 crowd, the apartment dweller, the condo owner all have shown a continued interest in gas-powered vehicles.

According to a state website listing public charging stations in Cape May County, we have about 35 such stations with most of them located in the southern part of the county. Some have been installed by municipalities and others are part of a larger commercial network of stations.

Roughly 15 of these stations provide connections for Tesla vehicles and the rest sport the J1772 connection commonly used by U.S. manufactures. Tesla drivers need an adapter if they need to use a J1772 charger. 

It is true that most people charge at home at night. Occasional use of public chargers may be needed, and the county has a slowly evolving infrastructure of chargers. We should be fine, right?

The problem is the comforting statistics on the charging infrastructure come from areas where people are near their homes, using their personal chargers overnight, usually driving less than 30 miles a day and only infrequently need a public charging station.

That may not be the way Cape May County will work for EV drivers, especially if they show up in large numbers.

The county draws a large part of its visitors from the states of New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The U.S. Department of Energy tells us that those three states have about a quarter of a million EVs on the road with new year-over-year sales uniformly up. So the more successful the electrification strategy is in the transportation sector, the more EVs we can expect as part of the large influx of summer visitors.

It is already possible for those who are using short-term rentals to request one with a charging station. It is a variable one can check off on the Airbnb website. The larger resort hotels also advertise access to a charging station.

Should we conclude that the market is taking care of the infrastructure problem? Are those who have a stake in providing accommodations to visitors during the season creating the extra charging stations the county will need? Can these market-driven efforts add sufficient capacity to the dabbling in charging infrastructure done by some of our municipalities?

It might be a risky proposition to assume that things will take care of themselves.

It does not seem as though anyone on the county or municipal staff is crunching the numbers to see what the likely influx of EVs might be as part of our visitor community given the rise in EV purchases.

It is already well documented that the EV charging issue becomes a greater problem for drivers when they are away from home. When on vacation, drivers cover more miles, need charging more often and are less familiar with where they can get a charge.

With the state push, the next few years could see the growth of electric vehicles outpace the additions to the charging infrastructure in the county. Keep in mind that charging, especially for that long trip home, can be a time-consuming process. Chargers do not turn over in the same five minutes it takes to get a tank of gas.

Yes, there are adapters that will allow EV drivers to plug into an appropriate wall socket for a level one charge. Is that sufficient to solve the problems the emerging infrastructure cannot handle?

When the central business of the county is tourism, one would expect a more sophisticated consideration of what could be a significant mismatch of charging needs and infrastructure.

Who is doing the math? In whose portfolio does this issue rest?

Complacency would be wrong on this issue. We are a county that lives and dies based on tourism. Anything that negatively impacts the tourist experience impacts us all. It is essential to know that the governor’s office considered Cape May County’s special needs when it mandated the EV timeline, and it would also be nice to hear from our county officials that someone has his or her eyes on this ball. We are visited by hundreds of thousands of people on a weekly basis. It is frankly inconceivable that the powers that be will be able to deliver enough electricity to enough chargers to meet Cape May County’s needs in the summer. This folly is what happens when politicians take charge of the economy.

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From the Bible — Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22

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