On August 6, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio held a virtual meeting of stakeholders to discuss electric vehicle charging across the state. Representatives of state agencies presented information on three major developments in electric vehicle charging from state government and took questions from attendees.
As discussed in the meeting, falling battery prices from technological innovation and growing commercial viability of the electric medium- and heavy-duty segments will soon lead to an evolving and expanding electric vehicle landscape in the state. These and other factors are now leading to coordinated actions by several Ohio agencies to prepare the state’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure for an expected increase in charging demand from expanding vehicle adoption.
Patrick Smith and Luke Stedke of DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Katie Zehnder of HNTB, a transportation infrastructure firm, presented a June 2020 charger siting study commissioned by DriveOhio, which Sam Spofforth and Andrew Conley of Clean Fuels Ohio co-authored. The study identified gaps in charging infrastructure along U.S. and state highway corridors in Ohio and recommended 34 sites for fast charger installation, including along the Ohio Turnpike. DriveOhio also recommended installing level 2 chargers at tourist attractions, state parks, and sites owned by several government agencies in order expand visibility and access to chargers. DriveOhio presented the study as part of their effort to disseminate the site recommendations to regional planning organizations, electric utilities, and state agencies to develop an effective charging network.
The DriveOhio study represents just one part of the cross-agency collaboration at the state level occurring in order to ensure effective rollout of the public charging network in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources will install level 2 charging at state lodges and several state parks, the Ohio Turnpike will continue installing fast chargers along corridors, and the Developmental Services Agency identified Ohio’s top five tourist attractions as sites for level 2 charging. Beyond site selection, the Department of Administrative Services has evaluated chargers and electric vehicles and added them to universal term contract lists available to other public agencies.
Additionally, $11.2 million from the 2016 Volkswagen settlement will be allocated by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for electric vehicle chargers in three rounds of funding. Alauddin Alauddin of OEPA presented information on the requirements for applications for the first round of funding, which is exclusively focused on publicly available level 2 chargers. Applications for the first round are due on Friday, September 30, at 3:00 pm.
Staff from both DriveOhio and OEPA emphasized that the initiatives discussed in the convening were only first steps in their ongoing efforts to support electric vehicle adoption.
Madeline Fleisher of Dickinson-Wright and Phil Jones of the Alliance for Transportation Electrification raised the issue of demand charges and spoke to the need for innovative rate designs to help site hosts and fleets deploying medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles avoid high rate charges. PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo indicated that there are options available for site hosts to defray burdensome and unpredictable cost spikes from demand charges.
The meeting concluded with open dialogue between utility commissioners and stakeholders which will help both better plan for increased electric vehicle adoption in Ohio.