Taxpayer funded electric car charging stations mostly unused


DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has pumped $816.3 billion into the U.S. economy since it was enacted in 2009. All that spending of taxpayer money has some people asking if it was worth it.

2 NEWS Investigates found that Clean Fuels Ohio spent $500,000 to install 58 charging stations for electric vehicles in Ohio, but most of them are being used just a handful of times each month.

The Miami Valley received $23,000 to install seven stations: two in Centerville, three in Tipp City and two in Dayton. The grant money paid for half the cost of installation and half the cost of the station itself.

2 NEWS Investigates requested usage numbers from each of the communities now home to the charging stations. Tipp City can track two of its three stations and showed they’re being used an average of once or twice a week. After a week of waiting, Dayton failed to supply the numbers. Centerville station usage averaged twice a week.

Clean Fuels Ohio had no expectations for usage once the stations were installed, but Cynthia Maves, Director of Grant Administration at Clean Fuels Ohio said it’s expected that interest will grow.

“I think the need was great because we needed to have that public infrastructure in the public eye so that those drivers could see that it’s out there for them. Once they see that it’s out there, that promotes adoption,” Maves said.

According to Maves, one of the arguments in support of moving ahead with the project is that Ohio is behind its neighboring states. Michigan has 660 electric vehicle charging stations, Indiana has 175 and Ohio has 171.

“It’s important for Ohio to stay competitive in the EV industry,” said Maves. “We rank number three in the automotive supply industry. It’s important that we keep or improve that ranking.”

But how quickly are Ohio drivers adopting the technology and how many have a need for public charging stations?

According to researchers at Ohio State University, fewer than 3,000 electric or plug-in vehicles were purchased in Ohio in the last two years. That amounts for less than a tenth of a percent of all registered vehicles in the state.

2 NEWS Investigates asked Maves why Clean Fuels Ohio didn’t wait until there was a greater need for charging stations.

“I think that puts Ohio further behind in terms of promoting EV adoption,” she said. “Having infrastructure available for residents also attracting residents and citizens to move to Ohio.”

Taxpayers continue to pay for the stations. Most of them are free to the public and it was left up to the sponsor that picked up the other half of the cost of installation to decide how to pay for the electricity.

In Tipp City, for example, the cost of electricity is absorbed by Tipp City Electric. So the customers cover the bill. In Dayton, the electricity bill is paid for with the fees paid by each driver who parks in the municipal parking garage, where the stations are located. Centerville’s stations cost $.50 to use, that money is used for some expenses but the city pays for the electricity.

 

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