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This week’s opening of four electric vehicle recharging posts in Green will be a welcome stopping spot for electric vehicle owners, no doubt.
The new stations are just a small drop in the rapidly expanding network within the county and across the U.S., but they augur far more about what’s on the way.
More public recharging stations, faster stations and growing numbers of EVs with a need to charge away from home base.
For now, however, the number of EVs on county and U.S. roads remains small.
According to a DriveOhio report from June 2020, the number of EVs nationwide is expected to climb from about 2 million currently to 18.7 million by 2030. Sales are forecast to rise to 3.5 million vehicles in 2030, accounting for 20% of all U.S. vehicle sales.
According to Third Solar Sun, one of the state’s top solar rooftop installation companies in Ohio, Summit County ranked fourth in Ohio with 1,249 EVs last year. Franklin County, with 4,154 vehicles, was first.
Despite the relatively small numbers, the infrastructure to charge EVs is expanding quickly.
The Pew Research Center reported in June 2021 that the number of publicly available charging stations nationwide had more than tripled since 2015, from about 32,000. By the end of the decade, the number of such stations is expected to be between 800,000 and 1.7 million.
Buoyed by state and federal grants and a growing need to quickly charge the limited-mileage vehicles, new stations are popping up throughout the county. Currently, EVs now available for sale have a wide range of travel capability. They can travel anywhere from 100 miles to 400 miles on a full charge, according to a Nov. 19 report from Car & Driver.
Green charging ahead
The fastest-growing city in south Summit County also has the most charging stations per-capita in the county, and that’s not likely to change soon. The city hosts Akron-Canton Airport in its borders and is committed to expanding the number of recharge stations. Private companies that operate in the city are on board, too.
A U.S. Department of Energy map highlights several existing stations in and around Green’s borders.
To the north, Fred Martin Nissan has a single port at its South Arlington Road dealership. On the south border of the city near the Akron-Canton Airport, at least five multi-port stations are already in place. On Massillon Just north of Boettler Road, both the Cambria Hotel Akron and the Shops of Green host charging stations, the hotel with one port, according to the USEPA map, and the Shops with two.
Rick Rebadow, CAM Inc. vice president of business development, said the charging station at Shops of Green make sense from a business standpoint. The stations won’t initially pay for themselves, but they provide an amenity that will become more popular as more vehicle owners make the shift to electric.
“It’s a busy corridor and it makes perfect sense for us from a retail standpoint,” he said in a phone interview last week.
About 93,000 vehicles a day traverse I-77 at Massillon Road, Rebadow said, a big reason his company developed the site, which includes a Menches Bros. restaurant and other retail establishments.
An Ohio Environmental Protection Agency grant provided partial funding to install the charging station, he said. It became operational last October.
“It’s an amenity right now,” Rebadow said. “We do charge for it, but it’s very nominal. We see that as an opportunity to attract people to our development.”
Rebadow said the company plans to install charging stations at other developments.
“We’re working with a company right now to put them in significantly more [locations],” he said. “[We] could have them in most of our buildings — upwards of 10 plus units — in the next year or two.”
The company partnered with ChargePoint Inc., a California-based electric vehicle infrastructure company that connects independently owned stations throughout the U.S.
ChargePoint utilizes a phone app that provides information on how the stations are used. At the Shops of Green, for instance, the average charge time was 40 minutes, Rebadow said.
“It’s a pretty cool technology,” he said.
The city of Green, too, is on board the electric train.
On Tuesday, four charging stations at the Green Central Administration Building will become available, all level 2 chargers — faster than charging at home, but a step behind the so-called DC Fast units, which can recharge an EV battery to 80% in 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
Sarah Haring, community development administrator, said the city spoke with other municipalities that have installed charge stations to gauge their experience with the units. Like CAM, Green decided to go with ChargePoint to operate the units and acquire information about their usage.
The project arose from a Living Green Task Force initiative and Haring worked with the task force to help bring the members’ idea to fruition.
“This project, and renewable energy in a larger framework, has been one of their recommendations,” she said.
Haring was able to acquire an Ohio EPA grant, which was combined with other funds, to pay for the stations.
The OEPA ponied up $22,500 from a diesel mitigation trust fund. Combined with $16,429 in grant money from a NOPEC Energized Community grant, the city share was pared down to $13,876.
Valerie Wax Carr, director of public service for Green, said the recharging units are a sign of things to come.
“We hope to have this be part of a larger plan moving forward,” she said. “It’s a good starting point for us.”
Although the charging stations are located near city hall, they won’t be monopolized by city vehicles.
“We don’t have any electrical vehicles in our fleet, but we want to position for that eventually,” Haring said.
Haring said the next step will be DC Fast charging stations, with tentative plans to locate them nearby. For now, however, the focus will be on the charging stations opening Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to roll it out and see how much interaction, how much use, we get,” she said.
Back to the source
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Lauren Siburkis said in an email that the company has been working with Green officials on its future plans, evaluating proposed electric needs and FirstEnergy’s ability to provide them.
The fast-charging stations require a more robust electric output, but Siburkis said FirstEnergy has the capability to provide what’s needed.
“We enhance our system annually to ensure it can handle the anticipated customer demand,” she said, “and future EV usage factors into our planning.”
In March, the company joined a coalition of the nation’s largest energy providers to develop and improve the EV charging network along U.S. highways and roads. The company that provides the electricity for much of Ohio is also committed to going electric with its corporate fleet, she said.
“FirstEnergy expects to electrify 30% of its approximately 3,400 light duty and aerial fleet vehicles by 2030, representing 1,034 vehicles — with the goal of reaching 100% electrification by 2050,” she said.
The shift, Siburkis said, could eliminate about 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year while saving more than 3.8 million gallons of fuel from 2021-2030.
Making it better, cheaper
At the University of Akron, professor Yu Zhu leads a team researching ways to improve electric storage of the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and flow batteries that can store hundreds of megawatt-hours.
Zhu said manufacturers and consumers of the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs are always looking to increase reliability and performance and reduce costs for the batteries. Significant gains have been made and his research indicates more will come.
“I think there is [already] quite a lot of improvement,” he said in a phone interview Friday. ‘[We are] moving forward pretty rapidly. I can see those getting better and better.”
The expanding infrastructure in Summit County and beyond will help ease the transition to EVs, which car manufacturers have committed to as gas-powered vehicles are phased out in the long run. That switch, in turn, will help with efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Zhu said.
“If we have more charging stations where we can directly charge our vehicles, this will definitely make things much more convenient,” he said.
Much of Zhu’s research has been on the far end of the EV equation, where power is generated to charge the vehicles.
The push to generate power by solar and wind sources creates a need for energy storage, something lacking in the current system, he said. Large-scale flow batteries provide a means to store excess power generated by those intermittent sources, which vary in their output based on uncontrolable factors.
“Right now, we don’t have any storage system,” he said. “They generate electricity [but] they have no way to store it.”
Zhu’s team is working to develop alternatives to hazardous electrolytes used in the batteries and his team was involved in research published in Nature Energy.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at a[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Recharging network expands as EVs grow in popularity in Summit County