Why didn’t Ohio join a bipartisan Midwest electric vehicle initiative?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Midwestern states have teamed up to signify they’re building the region into a future mecca for electric vehicles. But Ohio decided to stay on the curb. A bipartisan coalition of five Midwest governors last week announced a broad commitment to grow EV manufacturing and infrastructure to […]

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Midwestern states have teamed up to signify they’re building the region into a future mecca for electric vehicles. But Ohio decided to stay on the curb.

A bipartisan coalition of five Midwest governors last week announced a broad commitment to grow EV manufacturing and infrastructure to boost the area’s economy, improve public health and protect the environment.

REV Midwest is a wide-ranging agreement between every Midwestern Great Lakes state – except Ohio – to “futureproof” the region by coordinating on EV regulations, infrastructure improvements and green energy.

“Our partnership will enable the Midwest to lead on electric vehicle adoption, reduce carbon emissions, spur innovation and create good-paying jobs,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. She’s joined by Govs. Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.), J.B. Pritzker (D-Ill.), Tony Evers (D-Wis.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.).

No specific policies are set forth in the letter, but it “provides the foundation for cooperation” on EVs in the Great Lakes region.

Ohio, however, did not sign on, even though multiple electric vehicles are manufactured in the state – using tens of millions of dollars in tax incentives – and Ohio has invested in EV charging infrastructure.

“We were approached, and we declined,” Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s press secretary Dan Tierney told NBC4. “Often, Ohio does things the Ohio way. We’re not necessarily interested in adopting coalition rules if it doesn’t make sense for the state of Ohio.”

REV Midwest is not legally binding, but its structure says each state will have a taskforce of “senior leadership” that meets regularly and reports on progress.

Tierney said the letter “was largely proposed as a coalition of Democratic governors at the time,” although the final version includes Indiana’s Republican governor.

“It does not change the fact that Ohio was and is continuing to look at these policies independently,” Tierney continued, “And certainly, we have the ability to look at these policies independently of joining coalitions put together for political purposes.”

EV production growing in Ohio

The Buckeye State is no stranger to auto manufacturing, even of electric vehicles. Tierney mentioned Lordstown Motors, which builds its full-electric Endurance pickup truck in the factory General Motors abandoned after discontinuing the Chevrolet Cruze in 2019.

An aerial view of the Lordstown Motors factory where the company manufactures its Endurance electric pick-up truck in Lordstown, Ohio on October 16, 2020. (Photo by MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

Company spokesperson Kimberly Spell declined to comment on DeWine’s decision.

Lordstown Motors received a $20 million state tax incentive in December to create 1,570 full-time jobs and build its operation. DeWine visited their plant that June and said the Endurance has “tremendous competitive advantage” and the company “puts us in Ohio at a real advantage.”

“Ohio has always been an auto state,” the governor told reporters outside the factory, “… and this is the future.”

Gov. Mike DeWine, center, holds a press conference outside the Lordstown Motors manufacturing plant, touting the company’s Endurance electric truck on June 24, 2020, in Lordstown, Ohio. (Credit: WKBN)

Opening next year at a separate plant in Lordstown will be a GM/LG factory that makes EV battery cells. Ohio awarded the venture $13.8 million in conditional state tax credits. Lordstown Motors, meanwhile, announced a preliminary agreement last week to sell its plant to Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn so both companies can produce EVs there.

Jeep began assembling a plug-in hybrid Wrangler this year at one of its factories in Toledo, and the car can use roadside EV chargers. Parent company Stellantis told NBC4 “our focus is unchanged” with DeWine’s decision.

Workhorse Group, headquartered outside Cincinnati, manufactures electric delivery vans for companies including UPS, FedEx, DHL and W.B. Mason. Workhorse did not respond to a request for comment.

A record 158,841 electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, according to EV advocacy organization Veloz, soaring all-time sales past 2 million.

Americans bought a quarterly record number of EVs from April-June 2021. (Graph via Veloz)

‘To be clear, this is a letter’

Michigan spearheaded the REV Midwest agreement, but when reached by NBC4 Gov. Whitmer’s press secretary, Robert Leddy, did not say what states other than Ohio may have declined to sign on, nor did he comment on DeWine’s decision.

Tierney said he doesn’t want the fact Ohio didn’t join to mean the state isn’t invested in EV technology.

“Quite frankly, if that’s what people are thinking needs to be done in order to start action on electric vehicles, they’re late to the game,” he said. “Ohio’s already there. Ohio’s already in the game and trying to be a leader in the game.”

Brendan Kelley, director of Drive Electric Ohio, the EV advocacy arm of Clean Fuels Ohio, shared a similar view.

“Even though Ohio declined to join REV Midwest at this time, we have an active foothold in the electric vehicle industry between state-led initiatives, multi-million-dollar electric vehicle charging programs and businesses in the sector,” he told NBC4 in a statement.

Kelley added his organization has been working with DeWine and, “We applaud the administration’s efforts to protect and grow our economy by supporting electric vehicle production and adoption in Ohio.”

Those efforts, he noted, include $11.25 million for EV charging through a nationwide lawsuit settlement with Volkswagen, plus a $3.5 million state grant initiative through DriveOhio to increase roadside EV charging. The two-year transportation budget DeWine signed in May also puts $8 million toward charging station grants.

Tierney said the DeWine administration is not ruling out joining future coalitions regarding green autos, but on this one, actions speak louder than signatures.

“To be clear, this is a letter,” he said. “We’ve taken action by investing in this area, continuing conversations in this area, and we’re going to continue to do so.

“Some people may get excited about a letter; we get excited about action and development in these areas,” Tierney continued. “Not only for the benefits it brings the environment, but obviously if we can manufacture these things here in Ohio, it creates jobs while at the same time helping the industry position itself to do things to improve things such as emissions and reduced environmental impact.”


Shaqil Heaton

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