CLEVELAND — Carmakers and elected leaders keep saying electric vehicles are the transportation mode of the future. Recently-passed federal legislation is setting a goal to have 500,000 electric vehicle stations installed in the United States in less than ten years.
Before that federal money is dished out, the Northeast Ohio Area Coordinating Agency (NOACA) is spearheading a project to install 48 charging stations throughout Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, and Medina counties in Spring 2022. The $3 million project is funded through a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant.
You can find a full list of NOACA’s proposed 48 electric vehicle charging locations here.
A Bigger Impact
NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci says the benefit to this project could be felt in a much larger way because of the process that was created to determine where to put publicly accessible charging stations. She says her organization studied how many electric vehicles are currently in Northeast Ohio, how many residents are likely to buy in the next few years, and where drivers will need charging stations the most. After mapping out those locations, NOACA found the best public areas and partnered with 40 organizations to place the stations.
“We’re talking about parks, we’re talking about libraries, we’re talking about schools, and city halls,” said Gallucci.
That process to find the best location for those stations could be the key to securing the much larger sums of money that could eventually come from the American Jobs Plan, which promises $7.5 billion to install 500,000 charging stations across the country by 2030. Since that money will be given out through a competitive application process, Gallucci says already having a process to determine the best return on investment would make the region’s applications stand out.
“The program isn’t about just deploying these [almost] 50 stations randomly,” said Gallucci. “The program is about very very specifically identifying the best locations in the region in order to meet the demand, the adoption rates that are projected.”
In the meantime, the 48 new charging stations will put a small dent into the 10,000 that NOACA estimates Northeast Ohio will need in the next few years. Right now, Gallucci estimates there are only a few hundred.
What’s here already
When Michael Jeans looks at his Tesla’s dashboard, the gas gauge has been replaced with a battery icon, like the kind we find on our cell phones.
Still, the gas-centric terminology is hard to avoid.
“I’m at 153 miles to an empty tank,” said Jeans, referring to when his Tesla would run out of charge.
Jeans got his electric vehicle in 2019 after deciding he wanted to do his part to use less fossil fuel. His family has worked in the oil industry and he is the President and CEO of Growth Opportunity Partners (Growth Opps), which is currently working on various community projects centered on clean energy.
“So the case was made, it was really me getting over some of my own preconceived opinions for buying electric,” said Jeans.
He admits that one of the main issues before buying an electric vehicle was a fear that he’d run out of battery. In roughly two years, he says he’s cut it close but never had any issues, because of planning and having a charger installed at home. But building more public chargers is a work in progress.
“Five years ago, the charging stations weren’t as plentiful as they are now and five years from now there will be a lot more,” said Jeans.
Electric vehicle drivers like Jeans have to rely on what can be an inconsistent network of public charging stations in the community, especially if they can’t or don’t install a charger at home.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland installed one of the first electric vehicle charging stations back in 2012 because it fits in with the church’s mission.
“There was not a lot of people using electric cars back then,” said Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Cleveland Treasurer David Kantor.
Now, Kantor says there are about 20 cars using the station to charge up every week and that the church is proud to have gotten in on the ground level. Since it’s been in the Shaker Heights community so long, Kantor thinks it could have helped introduce people to the idea of electric vehicles, maybe inspiring them to own one as long as the infrastructure is there to back them up.
“The fact that there’s more emphasis on more charging stations ends up being an important thing,” said Kantor.
But what’s also important is the vision electric vehicle drivers like Jeans have for the future.
“I do often wonder how quiet might our roads be or our home be if we didn’t have the roar of engines and the sounds,” said Jeans. “How much cleaner might our roads be if we didn’t have the drip of oils.”
The hope is that more electric vehicle charging stations will lead to more people buying electric vehicles, eventually bringing the price down across the market. Experts suggest even though the purchase price for many electric vehicles might be higher than traditional gas-powered vehicles, the price to maintain the vehicle a few years after the purchase ends up being less for electric vehicle owners.
At least some of those savings are offset by Ohio’s inflated registration fees for electric vehicles. Electric vehicle drivers in the Buckeye State pay an extra $200 when they register their vehicle, making up for the gas tax they won’t be paying. That is one of the highest fees in the nation.
If you want to offer your feedback on NOACA’s plan for 48 charging stations, you can reach out by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 216-241-2414, Ext. 303.
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