published Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Electric vehicle network planned to allow gas-free travel

by Andy Johns
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Would you ever buy an electric car?

CALHOUN, Ga. -- A regional electric car group plans a network of chargers that would run up Interstates 75 and 59 to allow gas-free travel from Atlanta, Birmingham and Chattanooga.

A coalition of Clean Cities groups in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina released details of a plan to link charging stations in the three states along interstate corridors during a Northwest Georgia Regional Commission meeting last week.

A station or stations along I-75 would allow Atlanta drivers to reach stations already developed in Chattanooga and other Tennessee locations, according to Don Francis, executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta.

"We have really one hole to plug" along I-75 in the network between Atlanta and several Tennessee cities.

Most electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf and forthcoming offerings from Ford and Mitsubishi, can travel between 75 and 100 miles on a single charge. That puts a trip from Atlanta to Chattanooga out of reach, but charging stations -- which can juice up a battery in 20 minutes -- would make the trip possible.

Francis said the group plans to explore the idea of placing charging stations at highway rest areas, including sites in Gordon County, Ga., and DeKalb County, Ala. Beyond that, they hope to partner with chain restaurants, entertainment venues, malls and other attractions to build more stations.

"You don't want to put this stuff in the wrong place," Francis said. "You want to put this where people say they are going to use it."

The effort, called the Southeast Regional EV Readiness Planning Program, secured a grant and contract to study the routes in September, and the group has one year to complete user surveys and finalize plans.

In addition to I-75 and I-59, the current design calls for stations along Interstate 95 from Brunswick, Ga., to Florence, S.C.; I-85 from Montgomery, Ala., to Greenville, S.C.; I-20 from Birmingham to Columbia, S.C.; and I-65 from Mobile to Huntsville, Ala., among others.

According to the report, the coalition's goal is to have 100,000 electric vehicles in the three states by 2015, making up 10 percent of President Barack Obama's stated goal of 1 million EVs. The report cites low electricity rates and strong tax incentives as positives for electric cars in the Deep South, but notes the region's low adoption rate for hybrid and electric vehicles so far.

Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said the regional commission meeting was the first he had heard of the plan, but he doesn't want Whitfield County to be left out.

"I would hope we'd have one," he said.

Francis said the stations, which cost about $5,000 each, could be paid for with 50-50 grants from the U.S. Department of Energy. For the matching portions, the group plans to approach partners in the public and private sector.

"States can't afford to do this on their own," he said.

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about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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gjuster said...

Would be a great idea - if the government (meaning the people) weren't paying for it.

October 29, 2011 at 6:11 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

Tax money paying for this project is ENTIRELY inappropriate (but so is BO being the president, for that matter).

October 29, 2011 at 8:06 a.m.
hdooley said...

You guys are completely missing the point of a government project like this. Government is responsible for creating or seeding infrastructure for the future. Private money could not have built the interstate highway system, for example. Government needs to seed this infrastructure so electric cars can 'catch on', so to speak. I am not a fan of the current president, but I support the idea of encouraging electric cars just because it gives us more energy flexibility, allowing us to reduce oil imports from nations who may want to cause us harm; it gives us more energy independence.

October 29, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.
librul said...

Ha! Republicans probably miss the good 'ol days when "rugged individuals" started their Model T with a crank and drove on roads where the mud was up to the hubs. Now THAT was the real deal. No oppressive speed laws, no oppressive Federal Highway Administration, no oppressive EPA or catalytic converters. Yessir, that was real traveling! If we could only get rid of a government that acted like the people mattered and puts taxes to work for them rather than fighting wars brought on by the ineptitude of political cranks, we could have that utopia today. Ha!, again.

October 29, 2011 at 10:26 a.m.
cisland said...

I hope the coalition will do everything possible to install photovoltaic electric power generation arrays in tandem with the chargers like Northshore 2 at Greenlife grocery has. That way we can prevent a lot more pollution from large centralized electricity power plants as well as cut our use of foreign oil for transportation - and reduce our transportation dollar costs.

October 29, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
callison said...

Yeah, this is a great idea, government funded or not. The only limitation to electric cars now is the range. This allows free travel all over the area until the private sector is able to develop a EC with a longer range.

October 29, 2011 at 10:40 a.m.
LibDem said...

I'm sure KWVeteran pays for the roads he uses.

October 29, 2011 at 11:17 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

Excellent comments, hdooley and librul. Ever since golden boy Ronnie made his infamous remark that "government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem," right wingers have latched on to it and made it their mantra. Now it has become a cancer on their brain and is causing a paralysis that prevents anything meaningful from getting done at a nationwide level.

I don't know what it will take to get us past this stupefying phase where so many conservatives think that government is ALL bad ALL of the time, but I hope that we can regain some semblance of sanity soon and get back to being a nation that actually DOES something besides fight meaningless wars and suck up to big biz and the fat cats.

October 29, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
Echo said...

To all the self righteous environmental ayatollahs: Thanks for showing your total ignorance about battery powered cars. Your vehicle exhaust will be transferred to the tailpipe of coal fired power plants, increasing utility costs for heating, lighting, and industry where there is no alternative energy choice.

Today's electric battery technology is immature. When the entire life cycle of a vehicle is considered, a battery car is worse for the environment than a modern diesel of the same capacity. How many years does the battery last? How much waste is produced when the battery is recycled? How much energy is used to make it? How much energy is used to lug that battery around in the car wherever you go? How much of the energy efficiency was lost in transmission from the coal fired power plant to the charging station?

But don't that stop you and your ilk from patting each other on the back as you hang out at the charging station. Another triumph of advertising and governmental pocket padding over intelligence!

October 29, 2011 at 9:30 p.m.
Echo said...

Oh, yeah to the greenie that thinks that the photo voltaic system used at the local purveyor of fancy foods for rich white people is the answer, PV is 14% efficient. These PV solar systems are being subsidized by politicians that made laws and then formed private companies or solicited campaign contributions from private companies to extract personal profits from these laws (Matt Kisber-Silicon Ranch, Barack Obama-Solyndra LLC) It our tax money that is being wasted on these green energy boondoggles. Go to harbor freight and buy a bunch of solar panels for your house if you think this has any payback. It does not.

October 29, 2011 at 10:20 p.m.
paulscott said...

@Echo - Electric cars charged from the national grid, which is about 45% coal, are 2-3 times cleaner than a Prius, the most efficient gas car sold in the U.S. If using dirty energy to charge your car is not acceptable to you, it's easy to install a solar PV system if you have a good roof for solar. I've been running both my house and car on solar for 9 years now. My electric bill has average a mere $100 per year since 2002. I've driven 97,000 miles on sunlight, and my car has required virtually zero maintenance in all that time. I recently sold my old EV (Toyota RAV4 EV) for $18,000 and it was still running like new.

The addition of EVs to the demand side of electricity won't have a negative effect at all. Most charging will be done at night during off-peak hours. The Energy Dept. studied the grid and found that there is enough excess capacity on the grid at night to charge 180 million EVs without adding any new capacity.

In the past 4 years, we've installed 26 GW of wind energy and 2 GW of solar. That's enough new renewable energy to charge over 25 million EVs! We'll be installing vastly more renewable energy to the grid than all the EVs ever produced will need.

November 3, 2011 at 8:42 p.m.
paulscott said...

@Echo - PV systems are competitive with grid energy when you take into account they produce mostly peak energy. My system produces more energy during the day than I use. I "sell" those kWh to my utility for 30 cents/kWh and "buy" them back at night for 10 cents. I always charge my car on low cost off-peak energy which is why my electricity bill is only about $100 per year. I paid $15,000 out of pocket for my system back in 2002. By my calculation, it's paid for itself as of this year. Having an EV increases the ROI on solar since you're offsetting both your utility's energy cost and the cost of gasoline.

November 3, 2011 at 8:49 p.m.
carlosshane1477 said...

it could be for it is much easy to maintain it.. most car maintenance are not that easy to fix though. plus the cost of gas now a days have rising.

November 12, 2011 at 1:48 a.m.
J3rrYcid said...

It is about time more effort is being done to make electric cars as attractive to drive as possible. It is frustrating to have a gem that helps contribute to keeping the environment clean, yet the infrastructure has not been implemented to make it functional and convenient. Besides putting up a network of chargers, perhaps more can be done to boost electric cars’ irresistibility, such as providing car parts easily for replacement, and cheaper servicing. When al these factors come together, I believe electric car can then really take it off, and contribute for the environment.

December 27, 2012 at 2:26 a.m.
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