Ohio ranks poorly for electric vehicle infrastructure, but solutions in the works

Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 7:06 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - With the recent announcement from Honda of a multi-billion-dollar investment in Ohio to produce batteries for electric vehicles, they are top of mind for state leaders.

The demand from consumers is there.

But what are local communities doing to support electric vehicle adoption and reduce the “range anxiety” drivers get when they aren’t sure where their next charge will come from?

“Sometimes, you need to fill up and that’s when those public charging stations really come in handy,” said Shaker Heights resident Gaelle Muller-Greven.

She has been driving a hybrid electric vehicle for nearly four years.

The environmental advocate is glad to see charging stations popping up in her city and getting utilized.

“I think if you’re charging a vehicle, you’re also showing others that it’s possible and I think that’s really important to help make others less afraid of making that switch,” she said.

Muller-Greven wants to see more people driving electric, but she knows her fellow drivers have valid hesitations.

With public charging stations few and far between, there’s potential for “range anxiety” over how far they’ll be able to travel before they’ll need a fresh charge.

“It’s kind of a chick and egg situation. If the cities don’t step up, it’s hard for the residents to do the same,” she said.

The city of Shaker Heights is leading the charge in local EV infrastructure, with five public charging stations now installed and providing fuel for residents and visitors

Mayor David Weiss has been leading by example, driving electric for a decade.

“I really wanted to send a message to the industry that people are interested,” the mayor said.

He says their infrastructure was driven by both citizens and the administration.

“We have another almost 20 in the works. We just purchased our first electric sit-down mower, leaf blowers and weed whackers that are all electric now,” he said.

But you’ll be hard pressed to find infrastructure like that outside Shaker Heights.

A recent analysis by Lending Tree found that Ohio has the 10th worst electric vehicle infrastructure in the nation, based on things like electric vehicle adoption rates, EV incentives, and charging stations.

Only half a percent of Ohio vehicles on the road right now are electric.

Currently, Ohio has just two alternative fuel stations and five electric charging outlets per 10,000 vehicles.

Euclid currently has two charging stations with four ports at the library and memorial park.

In the first six months of this year, they’ve used 400 kilowatt hours, saving 162 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions, and 48 gallons of gas saved.

Euclid is part of NOACA, a regional coordinating agency. Its EV pilot program will be installing 47 charging stations through the county.

A dual port level 2 will go in at Sims Park.

“We think it is in important that it becomes easier for residents of Cuyahoga County to own and operate their own electric vehicles. We see ourselves as a bridge to make EV infrastructure more available,” said Valerie Katz, Director of Sustainability for Cuyahoga County.

She says the program will deploy level two chargers and DC fast chargers in locations decided upon after a large-scale study to identify optimal spots to charge up.

“Parks libraries, public properties where there was a high volume of work trip destinations. Places where people were driving and parking their cars for hours at a time, for work or recreational purposes,” said Katz.

She says they also looked at high-volume corridors. They plan to have them installed and operational by early 2023.

Another important thing to consider, according to Katz, is placing these near apartment buildings since renters can’t install their own fueling stations at home where most charging takes place.

Katz sees the NOACA program as a good first step but knows this won’t be enough to meet the growing demand.

“We can use the information we gain from the pilot program that’ll better position us to take advantage of larger amounts of federal dollars that are going to become available to deploy EV infrastructure,” she said.

The city of Solon recently applied for grant money to put in two fast chargers at the community center and in an auxiliary parking lot but was denied the funds. In their denial, the Ohio EPA cited too many applications, and not enough money to accommodate all the municipalities who want them.

Solon is now looking into installing charging stations that would be privately leased in those spots, so the city wouldn’t have to fund or manage them.

“We want to get that infrastructure out there so people feel comfortable in adopting purchasing an EV, then once more and more people have EVs then the private sector will feel more comfortable stepping in and taking over with infrastructure,” she said.

Perhaps the solution is in private partnerships.

Shaker is plugged in there too.

“We’re very close to finalizing an agreement with Tesla to bring 12 fast chargers to the Van Aken District,” said Shaker Heights sustainability coordinator Michael Peters.

They’re getting a pair of charging stations from the pilot program as well, which will also go in at Van Aken, a strategic location to support both their sustainability efforts and local businesses.

“When you charge, you typically are sitting there at least a half hour, sometime an hour or more.

When you look at the communities around us, none really have the depth of the chargers that we do, so we can bring people into the city-visitors, guests, residents. They can go grab lunch, or go to an appointment, really support our local businesses,” he said.

Muller-Greven is proud her city is leading the charge toward mass adoption one plug-in at a time.