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ODOT seeks feedback on plans for statewide electric vehicle charging station network

 A row of three electric vehicles, two Tesla and a Chevy Bolt.
Zaria Johnson
Ideastream Public Media
Electric vehicles presented by members of Drive Electric Ohio, a statewide organization of electric vehicle owners, at the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan informational meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on plans for its state-wide electric vehicle charging station network.

DriveOhio, ODOT’s department leading the EV developments, is planning electric vehicle charging stations every 50 miles across 1,867 miles of Ohio interstates and highways.

“Our mission as the state DOT, we're trying to expand access,” DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudhary said. “We had a lot of these types of meetings where folks have called out glaring gaps in southern Ohio in our Alternative Fuel Corridor network, and I think we'll be looking towards addressing those initially.”

Alternative Fuel Corridor refers to interstates and highways that are designated to support electric vehicle charging, hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling infrastructure according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The charging stations must meet federal requirements set by the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, federal efforts to create a system of public EV charging stations across the country.

The NEVI formula program requires a charging station every 50 miles along the interstate and within one mile of an interstate exit. Each charging station should be equipped with at least four DC fast charging ports, capable of charging a vehicle within 20 to 40 minutes, and at least 150 kilowatts per port -- 600 kW of power per charging station.

“At the end of the day, this should not feel like you're having to embark upon a new technological journey every time you decide to charge a vehicle. … It shouldn't be laborious to charge at different types of charging stations,” Choudhary said. “You should have consistent look and feel and expectations. I think that's where the federal government would like to see us go, and those are the sorts of requirements they put in place to ensure that consistency.

Drive Ohio Executive Director Preeti Choudhary stands at the podium before a rows of attendees.
Zaria Johnson
Ideastream Public Media
Drive Ohio Executive Director Preeti Choudhary presents the Ohio Department of Transportation DriveOhio plans for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

Currently, Ohio has only 13 charging stations that meet federal requirements across the nearly 1,900-mile Alternative Fuel Corridor. In order to meet the goal, the team needs to fund the construction of 30 charging stations on interstates, plus an additional 16 stations along U.S. and state roads, Choudhary said.

“We're looking at a total of 46 stations … with four, very fast charging ports available in the next two rounds of building out this infrastructure,” Choudhary said. “Beyond this build out, beyond the first two phases, we can use the money that we have in that $140 million pot to further build our infrastructure, but we have a little more flexibility on what those issues look like.”

Though the NEVI Formula Program requires the charging stations be located on or nearby the interstate or highway, Choudhary said DriveOhio is considering ways to ensure the locations of stations are equitable.

“We evaluate proximity of the proposed stations to disadvantaged communities,” she said. “For those that are within or closer to a disadvantaged community, we want to incentivize building at those locations, and moving forward that will be one of the elements that we look at with the future phases where we have a little bit more flexibility on where the stations are located.”

Electric vehicle adoption has been on the rise in recent years, with more than 12,000 registered in 2021, and 16,000 registered in 2022, according to the Ohio Alternative Fuel Registration Dashboard.

 A graph depicting Alternative Fuel Vehicles registered by year with 6.1k in 2019, 6.3k in 2020, 12.1k in 2021, 16k in 2022 and 7k in 2023 as of April 2023.
Ohio Alternative Fuel Registration Dashboard
A graph depicting the number of alternative fuel vehicles registered by year since 2019.

The expanding electric vehicle infrastructure is an effort to get ahead of the curve, Choudhary said, as the vehicles become more common and accessible.

“This number helps us prepare for the shift, especially when EVs become a more viable choice and more affordable choice and the only choice when auto manufacturers start making the shift over to electrification,” she said. “This is really putting the network or the infrastructure in place to support that transition.”

The program will build on local EV expansion efforts led by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Choudhary said.

“In the case of our work with NOACA, I think most of their chargers don't meet the stringent power requirements that we have. Ours are not only fast, but very fast,” she said. “We have very high-power loads on our charging, and I think for the most part, the regional charging and community charging proposals and plans that we have seen are slightly less power. So, I think they are complementary while not being redundant.”

NOACA approved its regional EV plan Friday that will bring 40 electric vehicle charging stations to 35 communities in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties in efforts to reduce transportation greenhouse gas emissions.

“Transportation has taken that outsized … level of importance in the greenhouse gas emissions and its contributions to climate change and air quality,” NOACA Executive Director and CEO Grace Gallucci said. “So, we know that this NEVI program will begin to really move the needle on greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ohio is the first state to use the funds, and Choudhary said the charging stations could be operational as early as fall 2024. But DriveOhio will continue to accept feedback on the Infrastructure Deployment plan and the charging station locations at NEVI@drive.ohio.gov.

“We’re trying to make ourselves as available as possible,” Choudhary said. “I really mean it when I say please email, provide feedback, comment on our plans on our maps. All of that will get factored in in particular as we look towards future phases of the build out of the program.”

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