Ohio could soon explore whether to expand electric vehicle infrastructure

The state of Ohio could soon study whether to roll out new infrastructure to benefit the drivers of electric vehicles.

House Bill 202 would create a 13-member Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Study Committee to explore issues related to electric vehicle infrastructure and report back by May 31.

The study committee requires no state budget, but it could make legislative recommendations that drive budget considerations in future fiscal years.

“One of the most common reasons that consumers hesitate in buying electric vehicles right now is the lack of public charging infrastructure,” Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio, told members of the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee, which is debating the bill.

“While some in Ohio are beginning to address this issue, most of our state remains severely underserved,” Spofforth added. “This blunts the potential for electric vehicles to save consumers money, reduce air pollution and also drive down everyone’s costs for electricity over time.”

In 2016, consumers purchased 1,630 electric vehicles in the Buckeye State, a number that increased to 4,456 in 2018, according to Clean Fuels Ohio. Spofforth believes that number can increase with more charging infrastructure.

One barrier, however, may be new annual fees for the owners of electric and hybrid vehicles included in the transportation budget Gov. Mike DeWine signed earlier this year. In response to a question from state Rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, Spofforth said it remains to be seen whether the fee will deter people from buying electric or hybrid vehicles.

State Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, raised a question about who might pay for the infrastructure.

“I think the dilemma here is private vs. public,” McClain said. “How do we best set up our companies within the state to have the opportunity to go in and provide these? I think it is a huge need as Ohio sits strategically north, south, east, west.”

As proposed, the committee includes political appointees and representatives of several organizations, including the Ohio Department of Transportation], the city of Columbus and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The membership of the committee could be revisited since some members, including state Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, expressed interest in making sure any study group includes participants from all regions of the state.

When it comes to exploring electric vehicle infrastructure, Ohio is not necessarily behind the pace of other states, Spofforth told committee members. Michigan has completed a needs assessment study, while Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota are undertaking similar studies, Spofforth added.

“Today, we face a classic ‘chicken vs. the egg’ situation in which consumers cite a lack of electric vehicle charging as a barrier, yet the private sector on its own can’t invest in this needed charging infrastructure due to the lack of an available market in the form of electric vehicles,” Spofforth told committee members. “We need a plan to jump-start this promising market as effectively, efficiently and quickly as possible.”

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