Development of Electric Vehicles in Ohio Needs Jolt

Originally published in The Vindicator

Our country's automotive history is deeply rooted in Ohio's Mahoning Valley. The Packard Motor Co. built its first car, which ran on a single cylinder engine, in 1899 in Warren. Over six decades later, General Motors brought a sprawling industrial complex to Lordstown that churned out more than 16 million vehicles over its lifetime. Today, we can write the next chapter of our automotive history as we begin to rebuild our economy after the coronavirus pandemic. If Ohio wants to keep leading in American auto manufacturing, we must be geared towards developing, manufacturing, and driving vehicles that also run on electricity.

Electric cars and trucks are no longer an engineering fantasy. The technology needed to manufacture these innovations has advanced so quickly that electric vehicles can drive 400 miles before refueling, soon costing the same as gas-powered vehicles. Every major automotive analyst predicts the future of transportation is electric. The only remaining question is where to build these vehicles. Let’s build them in Ohio.

To attract electric-vehicle investment into our state, we must show businesses we’re committed to an electric future. That’s why Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and I proposed Senate Bill 257, which provides tax rebates for electric-vehicle purchases and charging infrastructure. If passed, this bill would boost demand for electric cars and trucks here at home and lead to more jobs along the electric-vehicle supply chain for Ohio’s skilled manufacturing workforce.

But we need more political leadership from both sides of the aisle to help our existing supply chains adapt for production and to attract new manufacturing and technology companies. For example, our state government must work with our universities, community colleges and other institutions to train our workers. This training would be to manufacture electric-car batteries and other parts and for service technicians and software engineers that will work with these next-generation technologies. We also need to encourage private-sector investment by providing financing for technology start-ups and manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley and throughout Ohio.

Instead of moving toward this goal, last year the Ohio Legislature slapped a hefty annual fee of up to $200 on electric cars, discouraging use. We must reduce this annual fee so it’s equivalent to what drivers would be paying in gas taxes, instead of penalizing drivers for choosing to buy more efficient electric vehicles.

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