Kentucky off to an electric start in anticipation of Ford’s EV battery plants

Evolve KY has installed 82 level-2 charging stations that are free to use across the state
In Kentucky, Louisville nonprofit Evolve KY has installed 82 level-2 charging stations that are free to use.
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:44 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Ford Motor Company’s $5.8 billion investment in Hardin County to build batteries for its electric vehicles is Kentucky’s latest sign that it is ready to embrace clean driving.

In Kentucky, Louisville nonprofit Evolve KY has installed 82 level-2 charging stations that are free to use.

During a recent charge at the Norton Commons YMCA, Evolve KY’s Stuart Ungar said the chargers were put in places where people like to hang out, like coffee shops, gyms, or parks.

“We installed a dual charger here that charges two cars,” Ungar said. “It was so successful that about a year later they installed another because the first was always full.”

The businesses that sponsor these chargers pay the electricity fee in hopes that the people who use them will bring their money inside, Ungar said. At Irish Rover on Frankfort Avenue, there is a charging station that owner Michael Riedy says is a public service.

“They top up their car, go get a cup of coffee, a book, do something,” Reidy said. “They thank us for doing it and that’s the benefit of it.”

In a 2018 Louisville Metro Government Electric Vehicle Survey, most respondents said two main factors prevent them from buying an EV: lack of charging infrastructure and the initial purchase price of new cars. LG&E installed 20 chargers across the state, and the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan proposes $7.5 billion for adding charging stations across the country. As for the high starting price tag on an EV, Ungar said he hopes Ford’s new plant lowers the floor for potential drivers.

“Ford wants to sell cars and they see that the future is electric,” Ungar said. “These batteries will be going into not just the Mach-E, not just the Ford F-150 Lightning, but they will be going into a bunch of different vehicles.”

Vehicle cost tracker Kelley Blue Book states the average cost of a new car is $42,258. The Metro Survey said that most people wouldn’t buy electric until it was closer to $20,000. To bring these numbers close together, some new EV purchases qualify for a $7,500 federal tax rebate.

Vehicle history report company Bumper ranked Kentucky 45th in their EV data report. Consumer advocate Richard Gargan said the Ford investment should lead to a change in ranking.

“Ford’s EVs, especially the upcoming electric F-150, are likely to be more practical for you and with key parts now built in Kentucky, it’s a great way to support local manufacturing,” Gargan said. “Ford’s investment in Kentucky is a huge vote of confidence in the state which is important to have when coal jobs are declining.”

This investment could be seen as an optics shift for blue-collar workers in Kentucky. Ford has pledged 5,000 jobs at the new plant, which is more than all the coal jobs in the Commonwealth put together.

Transportation is the leading cause of greenhouse gases in America, and at the reveal event, Executive Chair Bill Ford highlighted the dangers of climate change and said that he’s excited that Ford’s electric vehicles could be part of the solution.

“We have to be bold; we have to go big, and we have to do it now,” Ford said. “This is why we’re here today — to launch a new era of sustainable manufacturing, to build electric vehicles and the batteries that power them on a massive scale right here in Kentucky.”

While many opponents of EV technology cite harmful mining practices as a reason to forego the technology, Ford is partnering with Redwood Materials to recycle used batteries for their precious metals and plans to have the facility run carbon-neutral when it begins production in 2025.

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