Beginning in October, Tennessee and Northwest Georgia will see the first of a new kind of filling station aimed at answering the 220-volt question of the electric car age: Where do I plug this sucker in? According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, 1,535 public battery charging stations will be scattered across the area at interstate highway rest areas and welcome centers and at malls and big-box stores.
Tennessee’s effort is part of its tie-in with Nissan, makers of the Leaf electric car, which is opening a lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Nissan plans an early roll-out of the Leaf in December, and 1,000 purchasers in Tennessee will get their very own home-charging stations. Nissan plans to also begin sales in California, Washington, Oregon and Arizona, where recharging stations also will be set up.
According to the Times Free Press, the five-state project to begin creating an electric car infrastructure is funded with $114 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and matches from technology company Ecotality and similar outfits to total more than $200 million.
One of the businesses hoping to get a big piece of the action is the Tennessee Valley Authority, whose vice president for environmental science, technology and policy told the Times Free Press that some fast chargers use 10 to 12 kilowatts of power, while a house at peak power uses only slightly more at around 13 kilowatts. But James Ellis, TVA’s electric car project manager, quickly modified expectations, noting that the fast chargers to be installed on local streets and interstates will be at least partially solar-powered. He said the cost of TVA electric energy needed to power a car is equal to paying 75 cents a gallon for gas.
One of the adventurous early buyers of the Leaf in Tennessee is the director of Chattanooga’s Office of Sustainability, Dave Crockett. And, yes, he is distantly related to that earlier trailblazer, Davy Crockett.