A first-of-its-kind report judging each state's capacity to enable the use of electric vehicles has New Jersey bringing up the rear of the Top 10.

That means we are doing well compared to many other states, some of them neighbors, but there are nine more spots to move up, and plenty of room for improvement.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy awarded New Jersey 44 out of a possible 100 points in its 10th-place ranking, which isn't a passing grade from an academic standpoint but looks far better when judged against, for example, New Mexico in 29th place at 15.5 points.

The 22 states that scored lower than New Mexico (the District of Columbia placed third) were not assigned a rank.

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California, not surprisingly, was first with a score of 91 out of 100, and ACEEE state policy director Bryan Howard said the Garden State has in many ways followed the Golden State's example.

"The state has taken some aggressive action to ensure that manufacturers deliver a certain number of passenger electric vehicles to the state, which is something that was initiated and started in California," Howard said.

New York state ranks second overall in the ACEEE study, but New Jersey outpaces some other neighbors: Connecticut (13th), Pennsylvania (17th), and Delaware (24th).

A recent settlement between the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and PSE&G to bring 44,500 charging stations to the state in the next six years highlighted the poor per-capita performance of the Garden State with respect to others that have joined a zero-emission vehicle consortium, but Howard said that when measured against all 50 states, New Jersey is actually doing fine.

ACEEE measured New Jersey as having about 14 electric vehicle charging ports per 100,000 people, which is acceptable at this point, but New York already offers more than double that.

The focus of New Jersey's government needs to remain sharp, Howard said, to ensure the governor and legislature keep electric vehicles a key component of the BPU's Energy Master Plan.

He said it's worth noting that some states don't have any plan at all.

"At least having an integrated plan, and working off of that to create milestones and benchmarks for progress, is a really important step that New Jersey has taken," Howard said. "There's a lot of different logistics and things that are going to come into this process, and having cooperation among state parties is going to be really critical to that success."

Where New Jersey could specifically improve is with regard to what ACEEE calls "environmental justice": a better equity of vehicle and charger distribution, and a better connection to low-income communities.

"Whether it be being near transit corridors or other factors of that kind are things that the state could be doing, or having greater focus," Howard said.

A pilot program recently announced in Newark and Camden is one way the state appears to be addressing that need gap, and if it succeeds, it could improve our standing going forward.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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