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NOACA approves more than $3.5 million for Northeast Ohio electric vehicle infrastructure

Electric cars parked on the street charging at curbside EV charging stations.
Electric vehicles parked on the street charging at curbside EV charging stations.

More electric vehicle charging stations are coming soon to Cuyahoga and surrounding counties following the approval of a series of projects at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency board meeting Friday.

After four attempts to come to terms on a contract that was both cost-friendly and effective, the agency will invest more than $3.5 million in 40 electric vehicle charging stations across Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina Counties.

“This has now worked for us and we are about if the board approves this today to put a shovel in the ground and start installing the EV charging stations based on the program that we developed initially in 2019,” NOACA Executive Director and CEO Grace Gallucci said.

Discussion at the meeting raised concerns over the investment, some participants pointing out that electricity in Ohio sourced from coal and lithium mining for batteries make electric vehicles an imperfect solution.

“Electric vehicles today are no greener than a gas-powered vehicle,” Lake County Commissioner John Plecnik said. “In fact, they can be less so because the batteries are very dangerous in terms of their ultimate disposal.”

But Cuyahoga County Director of the Department of Sustainability Mike Foley, alternate board member for Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne said electric vehicles are still a good option for those looking to go green.

“The grid is getting gradually cleaner and cleaner and cleaner every year,” he said. “There’s more renewables coming in, … there's less greenhouse gas emitting fuels that are generating electricity for the grid. I mean, … it's just a fact.”

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Foley added that there are options for Ohioans to purchase their own eco-friendly electricity to further reduce the impact the vehicles have on the environment.

“While still the majority of generation on the electric grid is greenhouse gas,” he said, “people who buy EVs can buy their own electricity that just buys green electrons, maybe from wind from Iowa or from Texas.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency recommends lithium batteries, including single-use lithium batteries often used in remotes, watches and smoke detectors, be taken to certified battery recyclers to ensure safe disposal.

NOACA’s investment will support Level 2 and DC Fast Charging stations in 35 communities across its five-county region, with 27 charging stations in Cuyahoga County, five in Lorain County, four in Medina County and two each in Lake and Geauga counties.

NOACA has also partnered with Ohio Department of Transportation and Drive Ohio for an update on the state’s EV infrastructure deployment plan Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Cuyahoga Community College Jerry Sue Thornton Center.

Ohio’s EV efforts are part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program introduced under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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