Charging network expands as electric vehicles gain popularity in Summit County
The opening this week of four electric vehicle charging stations in Green will no doubt be a welcome stopover for owners of electric vehicles.
The new stations are just a small drop in the rapidly expanding network in the county and across the United States, but they bode well for more of what’s on the way.
More public charging stations, faster stations and an increasing number of electric vehicles needing to charge away from home.
For now, however, the number of electric vehicles on county and US roads remains low.
According to a June 2020 DriveOhio report, the number of electric vehicles nationwide is expected to grow from about 2 million currently to 18.7 million by 2030. Sales are expected to reach 3.5 million vehicles in 2030, which which accounts for 20% of all vehicle sales in the United States. .
According to Third Solar Sun, the state’s leading solar installation company in Ohio, Summit County ranked fourth in Ohio with 1,249 electric vehicles last year. Franklin County, with 4,154 vehicles, was first.
Despite the relatively small number, the electric vehicle charging infrastructure is growing rapidly.
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 these stations should be between 800,000 and 1.7 million.
Supported by state and federal grants and a growing need to quickly charge limited-mileage vehicles, new stations are popping up across the county. Currently, electric vehicles now available for sale have a wide range of travel capabilities. They can go 100 to 400 miles on a full charge, according to a Nov. 19 report from Car & Driver.
Green charge ahead
The fastest growing city in southern Summit County also has the most charging stations per capita in the county, and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. The city hosts the Akron-Canton Airport on its borders and has pledged to increase the number of charging stations. Private companies operating in the city are also involved.
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. At the city’s southern border, near the Akron-Canton airport, at least five multiport stations are already in place. On Massillon Just north of Boettler Road, the Cambria Hotel Akron and Shops of Green host charging stations, the hotel with one port, according to the USEPA map, and the Shops with two.
Rick Rebadow, vice president of business development for CAM Inc., said the Shops of Green charging station makes good business sense. The stations don’t pay for themselves, but they do offer equipment that will become more popular as more vehicle owners go electric.
“It’s a busy hallway and that makes perfect sense for us from a retail perspective,” he said in a phone interview last week.
About 93,000 vehicles a day cross I-77 at Massillon Road, Rebadow said, a key reason his company developed the site, which includes a Menches Bros. restaurant. and other retail establishments.
A grant from the Ohio Department of Energy provided 30% of the cost of installing the charging station, he said. It became operational last October.
“It’s a convenience right now,” Rebadow said. “We charge for it, but it’s very minimal. We see this as an opportunity to attract people to our development.
Rebadow said the company plans to install charging stations in other developments.
“We are currently working with a company to put them in a lot more [locations],” he said. “[We] could have them in most of our buildings – 10+ units and counting – in a year or two.
The company has partnered with ChargePoint Inc., a California-based electric vehicle infrastructure company that connects independent stations across the United States.
ChargePoint uses a phone app that provides information on how charging stations are used. At the Shops of Green, for example, the average charge time was 40 minutes, Rebadow said.
“It’s pretty cool technology,” he said.
The town of Green, too, is on board the electric train.
On Tuesday, four charging stations in the Green Central Administration Building will be available, all Level 2 chargers – faster than home charging, 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 has spoken with other municipalities that have installed charging stations to gauge their experience with the units. Like CAM, Green decided to use ChargePoint to operate the units and acquire usage information.
The project grew out of an initiative of the Living Green Task Force, and Haring worked with the task force to help bring the members’ idea to fruition.
“This project, and renewable energy in a larger context, was one of their recommendations,” she said.
Haring was able to acquire a grant from the Ohio EPA, which was combined with other funds, to pay for the stations.
OEPA recovered $22,500 from a diesel mitigation trust fund. Combined with $16,429 in grants from a NOPEC Energized Community grant, the city’s share was reduced to $13,876.
Valerie Wax Carr, Green’s utility manager, said the charging units are a sign of things to come.
“We hope this will be part of a larger plan,” she said. “It’s a good starting point for us.”
Although the charging stations are located near City Hall, they will not be monopolized by city vehicles.
“We don’t have electric vehicles in our fleet, but we want to position ourselves 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 which will open on Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to roll it out and see how much interaction, how much usage, we get,” she said.
Back to basics
FirstEnergy spokeswoman Lauren Siburkis said in an email that the company has been working with green officials on its future plans, assessing proposed power needs and FirstEnergy’s ability to supply them.
Fast-charging stations require more robust power output, but Siburkis said FirstEnergy has the capacity to supply what is needed.
“We improve our system every year to make sure it can handle anticipated customer demand,” she said, “and future EV usage factors in our planning.”
In March, the company joined a coalition of the nation’s largest energy providers to expand and improve the electric vehicle charging network along US highways and roads. The company that provides electricity to much of Ohio has also pledged to go electric with its corporate fleet, she said.
“FirstEnergy plans to electrify 30% of its approximately 3,400 light and air vehicles by 2030, representing 1,034 vehicles, with the goal of achieving 100% electrification by 2050,” he said. she stated.
The change, Siburkis said, could eliminate about 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year while saving more than 3.8 million gallons of fuel from 2021 to 2030.
Do better, cheaper
At the University of Akron, Professor Yu Zhu leads a team investigating ways to improve electrical storage of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and flow batteries that can store hundreds of megawatt hours.
Zhu said manufacturers and consumers of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles are always looking to increase reliability and performance and reduce battery costs. Significant gains have been made and his research indicates that more will come.
“I think there is [already] lots of improvements,” he said in a phone interview on Friday. ‘[We are] moving forward quite quickly. I can see them getting better and better.
Expanding infrastructure in Summit County and beyond will help ease the transition to electric vehicles, which automakers have committed to as gas-powered vehicles are phased out over the long term. This change, in turn, will help efforts to reduce carbon emissions, Zhu said.
“If we have more charging stations where we can directly charge our vehicles, that will definitely make things a lot more convenient,” he said.
Much of Zhu’s research has focused on the end of the electric vehicle equation, where power is generated to charge vehicles.
The push to generate energy from solar and wind sources creates a need for energy storage, which is lacking in the current system, he said. Large-scale flow batteries provide a way to store excess energy generated by these intermittent sources, the output of which varies based on uncontrollable factors.
“At the moment we don’t have any storage system,” he said. “They produce electricity [but] they have no way to store it.
Zhu’s team is working to develop alternatives to hazardous electrolytes used in batteries, and his team has participated in research published in Nature Energy.
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