On day ten, the final day, of Midwest Green Transportation Forum and Expo, we kicked off with another virtual expo. This one featured more of our partners in the EV space: Envision Solar, Intertrust, EV United and Sawatch Labs.
At 10:30 am, Ralonda Hampton with Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission moderated Clean Transportation Solutions for All. Panelists included Dr. Shelley Francis from EV Hybrid Noire (EVHN), Sarah Conley-Ballew with Rural Action (RA), and Aslyne Rodriguez from Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA). The panel discussed issues with disproportionate impacts and access to transportation among disadvantaged Black, Brown, Indigenous, and rural people. Takeaways included finding multiple points of access to clean transportation – used as well as new EVs, shared mobility, and various transportation service providers. Panelists agreed the education coming directly from community messengers and channels is critical.
Dr. Francis shared information about EVHN’s work to knock down barriers to access clean transportation throughout the U.S. She provided data regarding disproportionate impacts from transportation pollution. She stressed the importance of engaging community members directly about needs and building bridges with subject-matter experts.
Sarah focused on disparities in access to mobility in rural communities, and shared statistics showing 2.5 times greater roadway fatalities in rural communities resulting from lack of investment. She provided an update on Rural Action’s award from the U.S. DOE in partnership with Clean Fuels Ohio, Transportation Research Center, DriveOhio and others to accelerate and demonstrate EV in shared mobility and goods movement in rural Ohio.
Aslyne recounted COTA’s work to accelerate clean transportation and efforts to address impacts from COVID. They are limiting bus capacity to 20 people and making sure they have enough busses in service to meet needs. They are requiring face coverings and have suspended payments and are working through systems for touchless, safe, affordable methods and levels of fares. COTA is also partnering with Columbus Yellow Cab and others to extend access to mobility to serve disadvantaged communities.
The 1 pm panel was Ohio Utilities and Their Electrification Plans. It was moderated by Madeline Fleisher from Dickenson-Wright. Panelists included Mark Berendt from AEP Ohio, Jordan Wallpe from Duke Energy, Ben Wilson from Ohio Electric Cooperatives Association and Chris Monticelli from Westerville Electric and AMP Ohio. This panel focused on what Ohio utilities have done and are planning in transportation electrification – both regulated and non-regulated. All discussed their approaches to rates and demand management tools to shift loads to off-peak. Panelists also discussed fleet electrification.
Mark reviewed their initial $10 million program, approved by the PUCO in 2017. They have closed the program for now and are about halfway through issuing awards. These have included DC fast charging in many locations, plus level 2 at retail locations, workplaces and multi-unit residential buildings. They have learned much through this program about the kinds of project models that work best. They’ve filled many gaps but there is room to do smore. It’s important for all utilities to ensure that EV programs are designed to benefit all utility customers.
Jordan reviewed their overall program that includes pilots in Florida, efforts in South Carolina, and a proposed program in North Carolina. They’ve been denied for programs in Kentucky and Indiana. In Ohio they have a program before the PUCO that includes fleet electrification, and investments in fast charging and level 2 in a variety of settings. Duke also has worked with several applicants to Ohio EPA for projects, but the challenge is working on the front end with applicants before applications are submitted. Notably, Ohio is the only non-regulated state in the Duke territory. This has moved them toward make ready and rebate approach. Other states are utility owned programs for now.
Chris discussed their rebate program for residential and commercial customers. They’ve developed 14 charge points in Westerville. They also are focused on the Ohio EPA. They expect to grow from zero charges just a few years ago to over thirty. For AMP, members are mixed. Some have not yet seen signs of market growth. However, given the governing structure of municipal utilities, they should be nimble and able to address needs as they present. The City of Westerville is also exploring fleet electrification.
Ben said they have recently started offering a EV charger rebate program for residential and commercial chargers; right now, it’s a very modest rebate but they have seen quite a bit of interest. They want to continue offering the program but may re-evaluate the rate. Some cooperative territories have seen more market activity than others. However, coop utilities do see the benefits of load growth in benefitting all customers. EVs have the potential to benefit all customers.
Last, the final conference session at 2:30 pm was Advanced Auto Manufacturing and Jobs of the Future. It was moderated by Jonathan Bridges at Jobs Ohio. Panelists included Ohio State Senator Sean O’Brien, Jason Miller from Dana Corporation, Dana Saucier from Jobs Ohio, and Chris Kerzich from Lordstown Motors Corporation (LMC). This session provided a fitting conclusion to the conference by looking toward the future and considering what’s at stake for Ohio’s economic future. Will we embrace and invest in the future of advanced sustainable transportation and reap the benefits for all Ohioans and our economy?
Senator O’Brien touched on Lordstown Motors and the Endurance Pick Up at the former GM plant. Also, they have partnerships with community college and Youngstown State University focused on workforce development. He brought up legislation he has introduced with State Senator Rulli, also from the Youngstown, area to incentivize purchase of EVs. Senator O’Brien emphasized that companies like LMC and LG Chem are our exciting future – and we need to get ahead of it. He stressed the importance of investment in charging stations to overcome a key market barrier.
Chris covered the Endurance pickup and the broader ecosystem around transportation electrification that includes training, workforce development and more. Lordstown Motors is very focused on advanced training concepts that utilize technologies. Chris also focused on the culture and ecosystem in the region focused on “Voltage Valley.” They are seeing interest from all over the country and they have hired many former GM employees. Chris picked up on the incentives conversation and asked, “How does Ohio want to be seen” in how we support electrification?
Jason focused on the leadership role that Dana has taken on commercial EVs, especially in urban and last mile applications. Kenworth solution will be built in Ohio. Peterbilt and Lonestar are both assembled in Texas. All of the electric systems will be made in Ohio. Jason picked up on Chris’ comments about creating an ecosystem that requires partnerships with government at all levels and everything that supports vehicle deployment. Jason built on comments about the value of incentives – noting that all last mile delivery vehicles can be electrified, but incentives provide the tipping point. He also noted the critical importance of charging infrastructure.
Dana focused on broader conversations related to job creation. Jobs in advanced manufacturing are very different. In prior years, jobs didn’t require as much technical training in computer technology. Jobs Ohio is focused on building out “Next Gen Talent.” This is focused on how jobs are changing and how training can be aligned with these needs. Ohio has strong legacy in manufacturing and training capabilities. Jobs Ohio is increasingly focused on reskilling and educating workers about next generation jobs. He added that young workers are concerned about climate change and want to be part of solutions to these long-term problems.