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Groups say Ohio missing an opportunity on electric cars

Ohio, ranked third in the nation in the auto supply chain, is well positioned to attract companies that build electric vehicles or produce parts for them.

But unlike some other states, Ohio offers no financial incentives for the companies or the buyers, which are considered crucial in developing a market for the pricey cars and attracting companies that build them.

Incentives are one of the recommendations in a plan generated by the nonprofit Clean Fuels Ohio to encourage electric vehicle use and manufacturing in Ohio. The plan also recommends launching a statewide study of the economic benefits of the electric vehicle market in Ohio, modernizing the electric utility grid, simplifying the permitting process for charging stations and planning the establishment of more charging stations in major cities.

Besides generating automotive jobs in Ohio, more electric vehicles in the state could reduce carbon emissions and help Ohio become more energy independent, proponents say.

Nearly half of what Ohioans spend in energy pays for fueling cars, trucks and buses and almost all of that is on oil imported from outside the state, according to a report released in May by Policy Matters Ohio, a nonprofit think tank.

“Promoting electric vehicle adoption will actually help us transition toward … more reliance on homegrown sources, and that’s going to keep a lot more money in the local economy,” said Amanda Woodrum, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio.

Clean Fuels Ohio and Policy Matters Ohio are both members of RE-AMP, which also publishes Midwest Energy News.
Incentives for buyers, manufacturers

Electric vehicles are cheaper to fuel and, even with Ohio’s coal-intensive electrical grid, produce lower global warming emissions than the vast majority of gasoline-powered vehicles. But they’re also expensive, so incentives help in attracting buyers. Among the cheaper plug-in electric vehicles is the Nissan Leaf, which costs about $30,000. Federal tax credits lower the cost by $2,500 to $7,500 depending on the vehicle’s battery.

If a state or local government does not offer additional incentives to bring down the sticker price, it can be tough to convince people that buying an electric vehicle could save them money, said Sam Spofforth, executive director of Clean Fuels Ohio.

Before buying an electric vehicle, consumers have to be able to see a significant savings in fuel costs within just a few years, Spofforth said.

A total of 14 states offer financial incentives for consumers who buy electric vehicles. Ohio offers none. Pennsylvania gives $3,500 rebates for electric and other alternative fuel vehicles. In West Virginia, electric vehicle buyers can get an income tax credit of up to $7,500 for light duty vehicles and $25,000 for heavy duty vehicles. Illinois, Arizona and Iowa offer reduced license and registration taxes.

Various groups have lobbied state legislators to pass a law offering a $2,000 credit to buyers of electric vehicles, but no proposed legislation has even been introduced.

Ohio also does not offer any incentives for companies that make parts for or construct entire electric vehicles. Twelve states offer such incentives, including Indiana, which gives grants and loans to companies that create alternative fuel technology or produce fuel efficient vehicles. In Michigan, a tax exemption may apply for industrial property used for electric, hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles.

Ohio Governor John Kasich doesn’t support incentives that help only one aspect of the energy industry, Kasich’s deputy press secretary Connie Wehrkamp said in a written statement.

“Rather than relying on one-off incentives that help only one industry, the governor is focused on making Ohio more business friendly so all job creators can thrive,” Wehrkamp said. She would not elaborate.
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