Gareth Huw Davies

Environment Blog

Power up the Tennessee experience

Natchez Trace Parkway, Tennessee. Electric road to the future? Photo - GHD.

With the imminent arrival of electric cars (EVs) on our streets, potential owners continue to experience recurrent bouts of “range anxiety.” With battery capacity limited to about 100 miles, what on earth do you do if, a long way from home, the indicator shows you’ve already done 85?

We need a big, encouraging example of someone, somewhere in the world bringing in a support system that allows EV drivers to charge up, without too much bother, when they’re away from home.

That example seems to be coming, surprisingly,  from the USA. All this furore about the rise of the extreme right-wing Tea Party tendency, and reactionary senators who can’t pass any meaningful climate change legislation, is diverting us is from some promising initiatives.

This month (September 2010) saw the announcement of one of the first big projects of its sort, to cover about 425 miles of highway in Tennessee with 2,500 residential, home and public charging stations.  Some will be on the highway corridors between the cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, and will include fast DC charging stations capable of delivering a “safe and meaningful charge” in fifteen minutes.

This is the claim of the company leading the project, US electric vehicle charge company Ecotality. Tennessee is one of seven US regions taking part in the company’s EV project, part funded by federal government grants. The plan is to fit 15,000 Internet-connected charging stations to 16 cities by next summer.

ECOtality sees Tennessee as the first state working to take the EV beyond its current 100 mile limit. The plan is to see how the system works in the state, and how drivers use their electric vehicles, and apply the results elsewhere. Drivers will be able to access the Internet to estimate their electricity usage, schedule charging when power is cheapest, and reserve a spot at a charging station when they’re out on the road.

Don Karner, President of ECOtality North America said: “Tennessee will provide invaluable information that will prove essential to encouraging the mass consumer adoption of electric vehicles.”

Sources — Martin LaMonica ,

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