Equitably Advancing a Clean Energy Future in NJ through Transportation Electrification Innovation

Governor Phil Murphy signs energy legislation and an executive order creating a statewide energy master plan in South Brunswick on May 23, 2018. OIT/Governor’s Office.

Governor Phil Murphy signed energy legislation and issued an Executive Order to prepare a Statewide Energy Master Plan in 2018. OIT/Governor’s Office.

In recent years, New Jersey has been a national leader in promoting vehicle electrification. The state has taken a multi-pronged approach that promotes electrifying the state fleet, supports local governments looking to electrify their fleets, and provides incentives for companies and consumers to adopt electric vehicles. The state is focusing particularly on reducing emissions in overburdened or environmental justice communities that have historically experienced more pollution.

In January 2020, the state of New Jersey issued the New Jersey Energy Master Plan that included a goal that New Jersey have 100 percent clean energy by 2050 and outlined seven key strategies for achieving the goal. In the same year, the state adopted a law establishing its goals for electric vehicles (EV), providing specific benchmarks with timelines. Strategies for reducing emissions in the transportation sector include reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing the use of electric vehicles. Additionally, on July 9, 2021, Governor Murphy signed a package of laws to support electric vehicle infrastructure throughout the state. These new laws, along with existing initiatives, are helping the state move toward a zero-emission transportation sector.

One of the more notable sources of funding for these initiatives is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a collaborative effort with 10 other states in the region that sets a cap on how much carbon dioxide can be emitted. Companies bid on the right to emit carbon through an auction system, and auction proceeds are invested into clean energy initiatives. Another major source of funds is money received from the Volkswagen settlement; as a penalty for installing devices to cheat emissions tests, Volkswagen (VW) agreed to pay into a trust fund to be distributed to states.

NJ Transit CEO Kevin Corbett unveiling the first NJ Transit bus garage with electric charging capability.

NJ TRANSIT CEO Kevin Corbett unveiling the first NJ TRANSIT bus garage with electric charging capability. Courtesy of NJ TRANSIT.

State Fleet Electrification

New Jersey has been on the forefront of investing to electrify the state vehicle fleet, focusing on New Jersey Transit (NJ TRANSIT) buses. The state has allocated $15 million in RGGI and VW funding to purchase electric buses. The 2020 legislation establishing EV benchmarks aims for 10 percent of the buses NJ TRANSIT purchases to be zero-emission by 2024 and increasing to 100 percent by the end of 2032. If attained, these goals should help NJ TRANSIT have a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2040.

NJ TRANSIT is already preparing for the transition to electric buses. The renovation of the Newton Avenue Bus Garage in Camden has been completed to make it suitable for electric buses, and the agency plans to start deploying electric buses in Camden by the end of 2022. The agency recently awarded a contract to a private firm to modernize and ready its  bus garage in Maplewood for electric buses and to conduct a systemwide survey and condition assessment of its 16 bus garages to identify the upgrades needed to support zero-emissions buses.  This follows the agency’s earlier issuance in 2021 of a request for proposal (RFP) for help developing a Zero-Emission Bus System Design and Investment Planning Study in order to stay on track to meet the goals, and the RFP establishes that the agency will prioritize adoption of electric buses in “low-income, urban, or environmental justice communities,” as these communities are most impacted by pollution from diesel buses.

An electric powered bus at Newark Liberty International Airport. NJ Transit plans to have a zero-emission fleet by 2040.

An electric powered bus at Newark Liberty International Airport. NJ TRANSIT plans to have a zero-emission fleet by 2040. Courtesy of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is also working to electrify the state fleet. The agency has purchased 50 electric vehicles and will have 125 fully electric vehicles by 2025, reducing carbon emissions by two million pounds annually. Additionally, NJDOT is working to support the electrification of other state vehicles. Together with Princeton University, NJDOT has completed multiple phases of a plan to identify the necessary infrastructure for an all-electric state fleet and prioritize where to install charging stations. This work will help ensure the gradual transition toward an electric fleet is done smoothly and intelligently.

State Supporting Local Government Fleet Electrification

In addition to converting the state fleet to electric vehicles, New Jersey is committed to helping local governments make the same transition. The State has used RGGI and VW funding to help local governments purchase electric school buses, ambulances, garbage trucks, trucks, shuttle buses, and dump trucks. Funding can also be used to support EV infrastructure such as charging stations and to support equitable mobility projects. These e-mobility projects provide electric car sharing and ride hailing services in “low- and moderate-income communities disproportionately impacted by pollution.” To improve the quality of life of children in low- and moderate-income communities, $13 million of the RGGI and VW funding is set aside for purchase of electric school buses and shuttles. Agencies can apply to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for grants.

One of the five fully electric garbage trucks deployed in Jersey City, the first in New Jersey. Courtesy of BYD

One of the five fully electric garbage trucks deployed in Jersey City, the first in New Jersey. Courtesy of BYD.

One notable success has been the deployment of electric garbage trucks in Jersey City in December 2021. The city purchased five garbage trucks, supported by $2 million in grants from the RGGI and VW funds. These are the first trucks of their kind in New Jersey and the largest deployment in the United States to date. While the trucks are currently not used for residential trash pick-up and are mainly used to help clean parks and business districts, they show that the state is at the forefront of adopting new electric vehicle technologies, helping to lay the groundwork for expanded use in New Jersey and elsewhere.

A notable leader in local government fleet electrification is Paterson. Paterson recently approved the purchase of two electric ambulances with NJDEP providing funding support. Ambulances spend a lot of time idling and the transition to electric ambulances will improve the air quality in Paterson and surrounding areas. The ambulance purchase continues Paterson’s efforts to go electric after they purchased 35 Nissan Leaf vehicles for the city fleet last year.

Another EV project that NJDEP is supporting is the GOTrenton! program, run by Isles, Inc., that supports EV access in Trenton. The program includes a carsharing service, a ridesharing service, a shuttle service, and related infrastructure such as charging stations. While the program is open to everyone, Isles took particular care in the site selection process to make sure that low-income communities would benefit the most from the program. The program will also create new jobs for people living in Trenton; it is expected to launch later this year.

State Supporting Port Electrification

New Jersey is also working on electrifying vehicles that operate out of Port Newark, the largest port on the east coast. Much of the transportation within the port is done via “drayage” vehicles that move cargo primarily within the port and shorter distances to nearby warehouses and distribution facilities. These vehicles tend to be older, diesel-powered, and a major source of emissions. Reducing pollution near the port is particularly important because the port is near areas like Newark and Elizabeth that fall under the definition of overburdened communities that NJDEP has determined are “in need of environmental justice.” These communities would be some of the main beneficiaries of port electrification.

In 2019, over $3.5 million was allocated for the purchase of 14 electric yard tractors in Port Newark. Courtesy of BYD

In 2019, over $3.5 million was allocated for the purchase of 14 electric yard tractors in Port Newark. Courtesy of BYD.

RGGI and VW money has been allocated to the purchase of different types of vehicles at the port, including forklifts, trucks, and tractors. Ten electric tractors were first introduced to Port Newark in 2021 and money has been allocated for ten additional tractors. In total, more than $19 million has been allocated to the acquisition of electric vehicles on and around Port Newark, demonstrating that cleaning up ports in particular is a priority for the state given the environmental justice gains to be made.


Dragone, Gabriella. (2022, June 15). City Council Approves Grants to Purchase Electric Ambulances, Utility Trucks. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/paterson/sections/police-and-fire/articles/city-council-approves-grants-to-purchase-electric-ambulances-utility-trucks

Dragone, Gabriella. (2021, November 5). Paterson Drives Into Greener Future with New Electric Vehicles. https://www.tapinto.net/towns/paterson/sections/green/articles/paterson-drives-into-greener-future-with-new-electric-vehicles

Evans, Tim. (2021, October 13). New Jersey Future. Electric Yard Goats and Environmental Justice. https://www.njfuture.org/2021/10/13/electric-yard-goats-and-environmental-justice/

Isles, Inc. (2022). Climate Action and GOTrenton! https://isles.org/our-approach/live-green-and-healthy/climate-action-ev/

Morill, Aaron (2021, November 16). Jersey City’s Garbage Trucks go Electric. Jersey City Times. https://jcitytimes.com/jersey-citys-garbage-trucks-go-electric/

NJDEP. (2022). Overview of Distribution of Mitigation Funds. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/vw/project.html

NJDEP. (2022). Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). https://www.nj.gov/dep/aqes/rggi.html

NJDEP. (2002). Stop the Soot. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/stopthesoot/sts-retrofits.htm

NJDEP. (2022). What are Overburdened Communities (OBC)?. https://www.nj.gov/dep/ej/communities.html

NJDOT. (2022, February 23). NJDOT Goes Electric. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv5KDEdfIJQ

NJDOT. (2021, October). New Jersey Fleet Electrification. https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/1026_NJDOT_EV_ProjectsSummary_Final.pdf

NJ Office of the Governor. (2022). About the Energy Master Plan. https://www.nj.gov/emp/energy/

NJ Office of the Governor. (2021, July 9). Governor Murphy Signs Bills to Advance New Jersey’s Clean Energy Future. https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562021/approved/20210709a.shtml

NJ Transit. (2021). Capital Plan Project Sheets: Bus Fleet. https://njtplans.com/downloads/capital-plan/NJ%20TRANSIT%202021%20Capital%20Plan%20Update%20Appendix%20B%20Project%20Sheets%20Final.pdf

NJ Transit (2021, August 2). NJ TRANSIT Seeks Firms to Study Pathway to Zero Emissions Bus System. https://www.njtransit.com/press-releases/nj-transit-seeks-firms-study-pathway-zero-emissions-bus-system

NJ Transit. (2022, March 22). NJ TRANSIT Unveils New Electric Bus Charging Infrastructure in Camden. https://www.njtransit.com/press-releases/nj-transit-unveils-new-electric-bus-charging-infrastructure-camden

Raja, Nausheen. (2021, March 31). Roadmap to Electrifying New Jersey’s Public Bus Fleet. New Jersey Policy Perspective. https://www.njpp.org/publications/report/roadmap-to-electrifying-new-jerseys-public-bus-fleet/



How New Jersey is Using Funds from the Volkswagen Settlement to Expand Clean Transportation Infrastructure

In January 2020, the State of NJ’s Energy Master Plan (EMP) was released which communicates the state’s aim to achieve 100 percent clean energy, defined as “carbon-neutral electricity generation,” by 2050. The plan provides a roadmap of seven key strategies to achieve this goal across a range of state agencies that include the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU), the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Department of Transportation (NJDOT), the Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA), the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL), the Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), and NJ TRANSIT. The EMP focuses heavily on the transportation sector as it is the state’s largest source of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at 42 percent.

Strategic Mapping For Electric Vehicle DC Fast Charging Station Locations. Photo Source: NJDEP, 2020.

Strategic Mapping For Electric Vehicle DC Fast Charging Station Locations. Photo Source: NJDEP, 2020.

As the state works to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust has provided a key source of early funding. In fall 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) alleged that Volkswagen had secretly installed defeat devices in select Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche-branded turbocharged direct injection diesel vehicles. The default devices had software that was specifically designed to cheat federal and state regulator emission tests. This resulted in vehicles with the devices emitting pollutant oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at up to 40 times the limit set by USEPA. NOx contributes to the materialization of ground level ozone which in turn causes harm to the respiratory system and cardiovascular health. Following this allegation, two Partial Consent Decrees were approved by the United States, California, and the defendants which formed an Environmental Mitigation Trust that provided funds to the 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and federally recognized tribes to counteract the negative impacts of the excess NOx emissions. Of the approximately $3 billion settlement, New Jersey was allocated $72.2 million, based on a calculation of the number of affected vehicles in the state, according to the state’s Beneficiary Mitigation Plan.

The Beneficiary Mitigation Plan states that 80 percent of the funds must be spent by October 2027, ten years after the Trust Effective Date, with five additional years for the remaining 20 percent if necessary. The settlement agreement outlines nine categories of eligible projects, which can be found here on NJDEP’s FAQ page. Additionally, the settlement allows for up to 15 percent of the funding to be used for light duty zero emission vehicle fueling and charging infrastructure. In support of the state’s target to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050, New Jersey’s goals for the mitigation funds are to reduce NOx, benefit communities disproportionately impacted by emissions, and support the expansion of zero emission vehicle adoption across the state. Additionally, NJDEP has a strong interest in pilot projects that help increase access to electric transportation modes such as bus transit or ride share in disproportionately impacted communities.

NJDEP is the lead agency assigned to prepare the state’s Mitigation Plan and authorize funds for approved projects with assistance from NJDOT, NJBPU, and NJ TRANSIT. According to Peg Hanna, Assistant Director of Air Monitoring and Mobile Sources at NJDEP and the lead for the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust at the agency, most states have appointed their environmental agency as the lead, with a few appointing their energy agency or governor’s office instead. Additionally, partner organizations outside the government include electric vehicle (EV) charging/fueling infrastructure providers, EV manufacturers, trade associations, and Environmental Justice (EJ) organizations.

Environmental Justice is a core component of the state’s goals in distributing the mitigation trust funds. Ms. Hanna explained that the primary way NJDEP has engaged with stakeholders in the EJ community is the agency’s EJ Advisory Council, using their meetings and subgroups to inform and seek feedback on the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust.

Currently, EJ communities are identified at the agency using several criteria, including whether it is an urban area, if it is a low- or moderate-income community, and whether it has been disproportionately impacted by air pollution. She mentioned this approach could change in the near-future with current state legislation S232, which would require NJDEP to evaluate environmental and public health impacts when reviewing permits for certain projects in overburdened communities. The bill provides a precise definition of an overburdened community which includes: 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income according to the U.S. Census, 40 percent of households are minority, or 40 percent of households have limited English proficiency. This definition is expected to be helpful moving forward to provide a clear map and list of municipalities that meet these criteria.

NJ VW Mitigation Trust Phase 1 Awards Map. Photo Source: NJDEP, 2020.

NJ VW Mitigation Trust Phase 1 Awards Map. Photo Source: NJDEP, 2020.

So far, NJDEP has allocated Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funding through two rounds in 2019, for a total of $27.2 million. In February 2019, the agency announced that $8 million would be used to purchase 8 new electric NJ Transit buses for the City of Camden and $3.2 million in grants were awarded for roughly 827 charging outlets at 533 charging stations across the state, which more than doubles the number of non-residential charging outlets across New Jersey.

The funding to expand chargers is distributed under NJDEP’s It Pay$ to Plug In grant program which aims to expand the state’s network of electric vehicle infrastructure in order to encourage residents, businesses, and government agencies to purchase electric vehicles.

A second round of funding was awarded in June 2019, when NJDEP announced $16 million would fund electric heavy-duty garbage trucks, school buses, and port-related vehicles. In the press release, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe said “The projects to be funded by this second round of grants will improve air quality in environmental justice communities that have for too long have had to bear a disproportionate burden of air pollution and its health consequences.” A breakdown of the projects awarded and dollar amounts disbursed so far can be found here.

Reflecting on these first two rounds of funding, NJDEP’s Peg Hanna saw the breadth of awardee projects which ranged from school buses to charging infrastructure as a positive, since it would help provide a range of information and lessons learned across different sectors. In contrast, some of the other states had plans focused solely on one type of transportation. For example, in Washington and Rhode Island, both states chose to spend their full amount on electric buses and charging infrastructure.

Currently, NJDEP is soliciting project proposals to allocate the remaining funding, with the application deadline on July 22. Of the remaining funds, $37.2 million will be used to convert old diesel trucks, buses, port equipment, marine vessels, and trains to electric power and $7.6 million will be allocated to charging infrastructure with priority for fast charging stations. Expanding fast charging infrastructure is supported by legislation signed into law in January 2020 which aimed to address “range anxiety” by expanding the network of electric vehicle chargers across the state. Additionally, this round of funding has a special project solicitation form for eMobility projects, which would expand electric car sharing or ride hailing in low and moderate income communities that have been disproportionally impacted by air pollution.

As New Jersey works towards the goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050 as outlined in the Energy Master Plan, the VW Mitigation Trust serves as a key source of funding to help achieve this and address the large impact the transportation sector has on air pollution in the state.


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NJDEP. (2018, December 13). State of New Jersey Beneficiary Mitigation Plan for the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/vw/BMPfinal.pdf.

NJDEP. (2019, June). NJDEP to Use First Round of Volkswagen Settlement Funds for Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/vw/phase1list.pdf.

NJDEP. (2020, June 15). Volkswagen Settlement Information. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/vw/.

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U.S. PIRG. (2019, May). Volkswagen Settlement State Scorecard. https://uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/USP%20VW%20Scorecard%20May19.pdf.