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Mission Possible: Is Northeast Ohio ready for the EV revolution?

Building the infrastructure to handle more electric vehicles could benefit Northeast Ohio.

CLEVELAND — The electric future on the road is coming as car manufacturers are creating more EV options. While the federal government is laying out plans to build a network of charging stations, how prepared Northeast Ohio is to go electric?

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The big buzzword at the Cleveland Auto Chow is “Electrification”. New all-electric crossovers, transit vans and more. Electric vehicles are turning heads, but are drivers buying? A major hurdle is range anxiety, the fear of running out of charge before you can find a place to plug in.

"There are not enough chargers that are out there in the wild,” said Steve Sumner the Vice President of Global Equipment of Lincoln Electric. “And so, building that infrastructure is a huge, important first step in getting more electric vehicles owned by people in the U.S.”

That’s why welding giant Lincoln Electric jumped into the EV charger manufacturing space. The company developed a 150-kilowatt fast charger in a matter of months, following rules set by the Biden administration.  

“So, our goal is to manufacture a significant portion of the DC fast chargers for the United States, made right here in Cleveland, Ohio, by Cleveland workers,” said Sumner.

Now it’s a race to market. One Lincoln Electric believes they will win by rolling out chargers by the year’s end.

“All of the other manufacturers need to build manufacturing plants or expand manufacturing plants,” stated Sumner. “Lincoln Electric doesn't need to do that because we already have that in place.”

Waiting for that to happen is NOACA, the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency. It has identified 47 locations, to put multiple chargers, across five counties.

“We did quite a bit of planning to decide how best to position these stations for the most use,” said the Grace Gallucci the Executive Director of NOACA.

Right now, most charging happens at home, slowly, over a number of hours. Fast chargers that take only minutes are what NOACA wants in more public places.

“We looked at libraries, we looked at parks, we looked at civic centers, community centers, high schools,” said Gallucci.

The holdup? Federal funding requires American-made fast chargers to be purchased, like those on the fast track at Lincoln Electric.

Akron's EV task force is also at work, focusing on multi-family homes. It is proposing a public network of charging stations.

“That will eventually fill out a ten-minute walk scenario throughout the city from any residents or for DC Fast Chargers, a ten-minute drive,” said Emily Collins, a Strategic Advisor for the Mayor of Akron.

The city is now looking for a public-private partnership to start building out its EV charger network.

“We know that once EVs become affordable, our considerations for travel, how we interact with the built environment right now, it's going to change,” said Collins.

Another recommendation from Akron’s EV Task Force was to develop an electric vehicle car share in the city. They hope to start with 12 cars, no word yet on when they would hit the road.

Will these projects completely relieve "range anxiety?", or help boost EV sales? That remains to be seen. But, NOACA and Akron see their role as showing EV is for everyone and ensuring no one is left behind.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The video above previously aired on 3News on Feb. 19, 2023. 

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