‘Voltage Valley’ senators want Ohio tax incentives for electric vehicle purchases

Sens. Sean O'Brien (at lectern) and Michael Rulli (third from left) are seen with business and automaker officials at a news conference announcing proposed tax credit incentives toward buying electric vehicles. Screenshot from The Ohio Channel press conference.

With investments being made into the electric vehicle industry in Northeast Ohio, two area legislators want the state to enact tax incentives for people wanting to buy those vehicles. 

This is part of a plan to make Ohio a “world capital of electric vehicles,” according to a pair of Mahoning Valley state senators: Michael Rulli, R-Salem, and Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta.

The two announced legislation Tuesday that would provide a $500 sales tax credit to individuals and $1,000 to businesses in Ohio toward the purchase of an electric vehicle (EV). There would also be a $1,500 tax credit given toward a vehicle charging station.

The bill has a “sunset clause,” meaning it would expire after being in effect for five years.

“Sen. Rulli and I see an opportunity to make Ohio the most important region in the world when it comes to electric vehicles,” O’Brien said at a news conference. “This bill that we are introducing is one step toward that.”

Rulli listed the top 10 states in terms of EV purchases, and noted Ohio’s absence on that list.

“We have to have Ohio enter this top 10, and when (O’Brien) and I are done, we’re going to be in the top three, I promise you that,” he said. 

This effort reflects the stark change from the traditional automaking industry that has dominated the Mahoning Valley for decades. The proposed bill follows two major investments into EV technology announced in recent weeks.

The first was that General Motors sold its shuttered Lordstown Assembly plant to a new company called Lordstown Motors. At Tuesday’s news conference, Lordstown founder Steve Burns outlined a plan to manufacture a line of EV trucks known as “Endurance.” He said the name is meant to highlight the “grit” of those living in the Mahoning Valley and compliment the trucks being “tough and rugged.”

The second development was a high-profile, multi-billion dollar joint venture announced between GM and South Korean company LG Chem. The project will feature a new EV battery plant to be built in the Lordstown area. 

One economic development official referred to the Mahoning Valley as the “Future Belt,” while Burns on Tuesday went with the moniker “Voltage Valley.”

“We can’t let California have all the fun,” Burns said. “We have to innovate here.”