Electric Vehicle Incentives Would Spur ‘Voltage Valley’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As the Mahoning Valley spawns more electric vehicle projects, Lordstown Motors Corp. CEO Steve Burns sees the region becoming known as the “Voltage Valley.”

Burns joined state Sens. Sean O’Brien and Michael Rulli and representatives of General Motors, Ford Motor Co. for a news conference in Columbus during which O’Brien and Rulli announced legislation to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles and the charging stations needed to fuel them.

The news conference was carried live and streamed online on the Ohio Channel, a service of Ohio’s public broadcasting stations.

“Senator Rulli and I see an opportunity to make Ohio the most important region in the world when it comes to electric vehicles. We want to make sure that Ohio emerges as the world’s capital of electric vehicles,” said O’Brien, D-62 Bazetta. “This bill is one step toward that goal.”

The legislation would authorize incentives for purchases of electric vehicles: a $500 sales tax credit for the purchase of one electric vehicle for personal use; a $1,000 sales tax credit per unit for up to 10 electric vehicles to be used for commercial use; and a $1,000 sales tax credit for construction of charging stations for personal and commercial use.

The top 10 states for electric vehicle purchases are California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Vermont, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York, while Ohio is somewhere in the top 30, according to Rulli.

“The big point in the bill is charging stations,” he said. GM and Ford have emphasized that attention has to be focused on EV infrastructure to support the industry’s development. “When Sean and I are done, we’re going to be in the top three, I promise you that,” he said.

“Greasing the skids” to encourage customers to purchase electric vehicles has worked in other states, said Lordstown Motors’ Burns.

Lordstown Motors, which purchased the former GM Lordstown plant, is “moving heaven and earth to come out with the first electric pickup truck in the United States,” the Endurance, by November 2020, he said. The company is licensing some of Workhorse’s EV technology to get to market sooner.

Workhorse also is one of the finalists for a contract to supply the next generation of vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service. “If Workhorse wins it, we’d like to convince them we could build that truck in Lordstown,” Burns said.

Burns formerly was the CEO of Workhorse, which has a 10% equity stake in Lordstown Motors.

Meanwhile, GM and LG Chem announced a joint venture Dec. 5 to build a battery plant in the Lordstown area that would supply GM’s electric vehicles, and Lordstown Motors officials are in discussions with ancillary companies and suppliers the company wants to set up shop here, Burns said.

“It’s to the point where instead of the Mahoning Valley we’re starting to call this the ‘Voltage Valley,’” Burns remarked. “We really think this is an opportunity to claim that the Midwest is where vehicles should be made. We can’t let California have all the fun.”

In addition to making EV purchases more attractive and cost effective, the incentives legislation “sends a strong signal to the world that Ohio is serious about electric vehicles,” with the intent of attracting more EV manufacturers and suppliers to the state, O’Brien said.

“We have some of the most skilled workers in the world, and with this bill, it will show that we have a state government that understands the new electric vehicle revolution,” O’Brien continued. “We want to make sure that carmakers and car plant managers look at Ohio when they choose where they’re going to build their product as they move to the electric vehicle field.”

Such legislation “can go a long way to expand our business in the state of Ohio,” affirmed Brian O’Connell, regional director of state government affairs for GM. And it would “help accelerate the pursuit of more electric vehicles not just in Ohio but across the United States,” he predicted.

State Rep. Kent Smith, D-8 Euclid, pledged to sponsor similar legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives.

“Ohio does two things really well. We feed the world and we build things,” said Smith, who attended the news conference.

“The future of our economy is electric vehicles,” he added. “The question for the state of Ohio is, are we going to fuel our future with the electric vehicle supply chain or are we going to remain in the Smog Age?”

The O’Brien/Rulli bill is an initial proposal, and two state senators acknowledge they expect to see language added and subtracted during the process.

Rick Stockburger, president and CEO of Brite Energy Innovators in Warren, said he’s encouraged by the legislation. His phone has been ringing “non-stop” lately with calls from “people wanting to be part of the [electric vehicle] movement,” he reported.

“In the Mahoning Valley, we are poised to be on the forefront of not only assembly and production but research and development in the electric vehicle space,” Stockburger said. “These incentives are a piece of the puzzle to assist people of all income levels to purchase or lease their electric vehicles, one that I am hopeful is built, assembled, or researched right here in the Valley.”

Pictured at top: State Sens. Michael Rulli and Sean O’Brien explain how their proposed incentives would work during a news conference Tuesday in Columbus.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.