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Akron eyes the future with equitable expansion of EV charging network, car-share services

Electric cars parked on the street charging at curbside EV charging stations.
Electric vehicles parked on the street charging at curbside EV charging stations.

Akron plans to expand its electric vehicle infrastructure, following recommendations from the city’s EV Planning Taskforce.

The city received the full report from the taskforce in February, according to the news release, which included recommendations to both increase the number of public electric charging stations and introduce an affordable, pilot EV car share service in Akron.

“Equity was our primary concern when we were thinking through whether and how to go about planning for a community EV charging network,” Emily Collins, Strategic Advisor to Mayor Dan Horrigan, said. “The taskforce actually recommended, first of all, that we at least pilot an EV car share, and their goal with an EV car share is to increase mobility.”

The car share service is expected to cost $8 an hour, Collins said, with the goal of introducing Akron residents to EVs, while improving mobility throughout the region.

“An EV car share has the potential to allow people access to basic government services, … workforce opportunities and health care, not to mention groceries,” Collins said, “and … at $8 for an hour.”

The city is already having discussions with Sway Mobility, a carshare service, exploring opportunities for the pilot, according to the news release, and issued a request for proposals for additional charging stations.

The city hopes to introduce its residents to EVs ahead of a transportation shift that, Collins said, could rival the move from horse and buggies to cars.

“It's not that we expect, you know, a transition of that kind of magnitude, but we certainly expect the transition where EVs are going to be predominantly really occupying our roadways quickly as soon as they're affordable.”

Electric vehicle registration in Summit County is expected to reach 9,764 by 2027 and 41,909 by 2032, according to Akron’s request for proposals.

The 50-person taskforce relied on expert and public feedback, along with federal data to determine the best way to address the need for equitable EV infrastructure that would serve the community as EV use increases.

“We wanted to utilize the wealth of community information and expertise in the electric vehicle charging space to understand how to best go about… thinking through the challenges and opportunities of building a network,” Collins said.

The EV Taskforce identified a need for more than 750 public charging stations within a 10-minute walk of multi-family homes and apartment complexes in areas called “development zones.” This includes 240-volt level 2 charging stations within a 10-minute walk of any residential building in Akron, and a 480-volt level 3 charging stations within a 10-minute drive of any Akron residence.

“The way charging tends to work is that people are charging at night, they're charging when they aren't using the vehicle,” Collins said. “So, access to a charge, a community charging network, needs to be placed so that people who don't have access to home charging are able to conduct that same… activity at night.”

Locations of charging stations are not yet set in stone, Collins said, and the taskforce hopes to get more public feedback before doing so.

Many of the EV charging stations in the city currently are owned by private businesses, and used as a way to bring in customers. This shows that Akron’s EV infrastructure could use some improving, Collins said, especially as it relates to public accessibility.

“How can we make sure that each of these charging stations, can be not only … physically accessible to a person with disabilities,” Collins said, “but also, [that] they’re striped right, they’re there covered so somebody who's engaging in fast charging, which is usually about a 20-minute wait time, actually has a place to go other than their car.”

Proposals are due to the city by April 14, and Collins said the city hopes to implement the updated EV infrastructure by the summer.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.