Knoxville Prepares for Electric Vehicles

Communications Director

Eric Vreeland
evreeland@knoxvilletn.gov
(865) 215-3480

400 Main St., Room 654A
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Knoxville Prepares for Electric Vehicles

Posted: 06/25/2010
The new electric cars won't arrive until late this year but the City of Knoxville and its partners are already developing the public infrastructure necessary to support electric transportation through an ambitious program called the EV Project.

Representatives from the City of Knoxville, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Knoxville Utilities Board, Tennessee Valley Authority and Knox County have been working with ECOtality to determine where to locate roughly 350 publicly-accessible charging stations in Knoxville and the surrounding area - including 10 solar-powered stations in downtown Knoxville.

Knoxville, ORNL, TVA and KUB are part of the Tennessee Region of the EV Project, a partnership between ECOtality, Nissan North America and General Motors/Chevrolet involving the deployment of more than 8,000 of the new Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt vehicles and about 15,000 charging stations in test markets across the nation.

The U.S. Department of Energy has given nearly $115 million in grants to ECOtality to support the program. The charging stations coming this fall to the Knoxville area can be used to charge any make of electric vehicle.

"Owners of any of the new generation of electric vehicles can plug into the charging stations, they aren't just for Nissan LEAF or Volt," said Susanna Bass, the city's Sustainability Program Manager.

As part of the EV Project the charging stations will collect data from the electric vehicles that ECOtality will use to help develop a workable nationwide infrastructure necessary to support millions of electric cars.

Through the EV Project Knoxville, Nashville and Chattanooga are all test markets for the Nissan LEAF and the charging infrastructure, along with Washington D.C. and a handful of cities in Oregon, Washington, Arizona and California.

"We've been meeting frequently with project partners to think through the challenges and opportunities for electric vehicles in the Knoxville area and to identify places where the charging stations should go," Bass said.

The city is particularly excited about hosting two pods of solar-powered stations which each contain five charging stations. Solar panels attached to the charging station will provide clean energy to the electric vehicles pulled in at the site.

"We're probably going to put them in two different garages in the downtown area, and we're looking at the Market Square, Coliseum and State Street Garages, though no decision has been made yet," she said. "After that decision is made, the next step will be determining the locations for the non-solar charging stations."

The charging stations resemble small box-like structures that resemble convention gasoline pumps and cars plug into them to recharge. Most owners of the new cars will receive home charging stations to "fuel up" at home, but having a network of public stations will be necessary to allow EV drivers more flexibility and freedom.

"We've sat down with MPC (Metropolitan Planning Commission), the Knoxville Police Department, the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition and the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the possibilities - everyone is very excited to see electric vehicles come to Knoxville and happy to work together on this project," Bass said.

The group has looked at over 100 proposed locations in Knoxville, Knox County and surrounding counties for the charging stations but has not made any final decisions yet. Knoxville and other groups involved in the EV Project anticipate installing the public charging stations sometime this fall.

"This is something new and everyone involved, not just here in Tennessee but in the all test markets, is trying to determine what the best possible configurations are," Bass said.

The first group of Nissan LEAFs has already been reserved and should start arriving in the test markets late this year. Nissan is taking orders for the next group.

If you are interested in learning more about the Nissan LEAF or how to buy one please see, www.nissanusa.com/leaf-electric-car

The EV Project is scheduled to last for three years.