published Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Charging stations open in Chattanooga, but few vehicles sold to use them

Nissan Leaf electric vehicles are parked at a Thursday morning event at 2 North Shore where five charging stations for electric vehicles and a parking area underneath a solar photovoltaic array were introduced to the public.
Nissan Leaf electric vehicles are parked at a Thursday morning event at 2 North Shore where five charging stations for electric vehicles and a parking area underneath a solar photovoltaic array were introduced to the public.
Photo by John Rawlston.
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Among sites where stations are located or soon to be:

• CARTA parking garages

• Incline Railway's lower station

• 2 North Shore

• 212 Market St.

• DoubleTree Hotel

• Chattanoogan hotel

• Renaissance Park

• Murphy Express

• Rock City

• Ruby Falls

Source: Ecotality

James Dillard, of Hixson, bought his Nissan Leaf about three weeks ago and he's charged up about the all-electric car.

"It's a very responsive car. It's not slow. You're not doing a turtle," he said Thursday.

However, fewer than three dozen Leafs have been sold in Chattanooga so far this year. Dealers say its rollout was hindered by the tsunami that hit Japan in March. The Leaf's hybrid cousin, the Chevrolet Volt, is just now being introduced in Tennessee.

Some people also say buyers are slow to jump into the all-electric driver's seat because of the newness of the technology and so-called "range anxiety," or a lack of locations to charge up their vehicles, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Nissan said last year that it planned to sell as many as 25,000 Leafs in the U.S. during the model's first year, according to Bloomberg, but U.S. sales through August were just 6,168. The Leaf's suggested list price starts at $35,200 but a $7,500 instant credit knocks that down to $27,700.

Meanwhile, the installation of charging stations in Chattanooga has followed the Leaf's emergence in the market. Five new chargers were installed Thursday at Greenlife Grocery on the North Shore.

"We want to have the same ratio of cars and stations," said Stephanie Cox of San Francisco-based Ecotality, which is responsible for the project of putting charging stations in the state.

Cox estimated that close to 30 stations are up and running in Chattanooga so far, or nearly one for every electric car. About 20 more stations are slated for the city, she said, while about 280 stations are installed statewide so far and 100 more are in the works.

Tom Dugan, CARTA's executive director, said the charging station project was a new program that started slowly, but he thinks it's now gaining speed.

"I'm looking forward to seeing cars arriving," he said.

About a year ago, estimates said about 37 charging stations would be set up in the Chattanooga area by the end of 2010, and Hamilton County had a wish list of 76 such facilities.

"We need more sites," Cox said Thursday, adding that $114.8 million in federal stimulus money helping to fund the project is slated to sunset at year's end unless it is extended.

The U.S. Department of Energy hired Ecotality to install a target of 14,000 chargers in homes, municipal buildings and business in Tennessee and five other states. The project is to cost about $230 million with support from Ecotality and its partners, the company said.

Cox said installing home chargers is part of the program as well, and that's running behind statewide projections. Each Leaf owner is to receive a free station at home, Cox said.

"It was originally anticipated that there'd be about 1,000 Leafs in the Tennessee portion. That's half subscribed. There's plenty of vehicle participation spaces left," Cox said.


On Thursday, five new chargers were unveiled at Greenlife Grocery in the 2 North Shore center on Manufacturers Road. The chargers sit beneath a roof with a solar panel on top.

On Saturday, Murphy USA and Eaton Corp. will install a charging station at the Murphy Express on Lee Highway, a first for Murphy, an official said. Murphy's president and others are slated to be at the kickoff.

Steve Arnsdorff, who developed 2 North Shore, said the Ecotality project was looking for sites for its charging stations and the shopping center worked out.

"It's a perfect fit," he said.

Arnsdorff said the solar project is a partnership with TVA and locally based environmental entity Green Spaces. Users will be able to plug in for free for about a year, Arnsdorff said, but will have to pay for power after that.

Cox said electric cars make sense to Chattanoogans with the city's long history of using battery-powered vehicles, citing CARTA's electric bus program.

Plans are to start installing charging stations at BP and Cracker Barrel locations between Chattanooga and Nashville and Knoxville before year's end, Cox said.

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about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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KWVeteran said...

"114.8 million in federal stimulus money helping to fund the project is slated to sunset at year's end unless it is extended" I guess it's out of the question to do something useful like just returning this money to the taxpayer... but democrats run the show, so I shouldn't question the idiocy of it how it was spent so far and how it will all be spent by new year's eve.

September 23, 2011 at 7:15 a.m.
mrredskin said...

step 1: build useless electric stations step 2:..... step 3: consider yourself a "green" city

September 23, 2011 at 7:59 a.m.
dao1980 said...

Clean shiny vehicles packed with dirty polluting batteries to be plugged up to dirty polluting power source.... nice.

Where's my hydrogen dang it?!

I do like the little solar powered shed in the background. How long do you have to hope the sun stays out before you're all charged up for your forty minute drive... and need another solar powered shed..

September 23, 2011 at 8:07 a.m.
2northshore said...

This project was funded by bank financing, state grants, and a federal tax credit. We're excited that no only will it will pay for itself, but it will lower our power costs annually by about $10,000...enough to cover the cost of our parking lights for the year.

The solar energy generation is quite exciting because it still collects quite a lot even when it's raining out. But the way the system is designed, should the panels not be generating any energy, you will still be able to charge your electric car because they are powered directly from the power grid. We sell our solar energy to TVA and then we buy it back for our electric vehicle charging stations. That ensures all the generated energy is being used and all the needed charging energy is supplied.

We are honored to be a part of Chattanooga! The city that was once deemed the dirtiest is now declared the "Best Town Ever" by Outdoor Magazine.

September 23, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
rolando said...

All this hullabaloo and not a word about how much it will cost you to re-charge your car for another 40-minute drive or how long it will take. No more quick trips to wherever to pick up that needed item.

No doubt they are afraid to tell us all because, again, it will give even more reasons not to buy one of the idiotic things.

No doubt it is still cheaper per-mile-driven to buy gasohol...even with its subsidies. Once the taxpayer-supported subsidy for solar power is included, the price-per-mile will skyrocket.

And that says nothing about the cost to the environment to build those filthy, pollution-creating batteries [Google it]. But then, that is in somebody else's backyard, isn't it? Which seems to make it OK for the TFP.

September 23, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.

The TFP should run a tally on all of the specious federally-funded electric vehicle nonsense Jim Frierson has propagated over the years...If this concept - and for that matter, these vehicles - are so great, why won't the free market economy embrace them?

September 23, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.
heneh said...

If it could stand on it's own without federal money and the people bought it without any tax write offs or other incentives it would be something to be proud of but this is just a taxpayer ripe off.

September 23, 2011 at 9:35 p.m.
PROPHETA said...

rolando - 440VDC - 30 minutes - $2.40 - 100 miles

September 24, 2011 at 10:56 p.m.
ParanoidAndroid said...

First of all, Oil companies already receive billions in subsides from U.S. tax payers. On top of that we spend billions in securing these resources. So all energy must be subsidized in order to be viable and affordable. I think that it is great that the Tennessee Government and businesses see that renewable energy and electric cars must be part of the solution. After all oil is a finite resource that will eventually run out.

September 25, 2011 at 1:53 p.m.
LarryPage said...

Why only few vehicles? These vehicles are good in terms of quality and they have good parts like engine, brakes and step rails. I hope in the future many electric vehicles will be sold to use the stations.

December 8, 2011 at 12:30 a.m.
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