Ride the Future rolls into Chattanooga touting benefits of electric vehicles

Ride the Future rolls into Chattanooga touting benefits of electric vehicles

July 10th, 2013 by Alex Green in Business Around the Region

A Nissan Leaf sits charging at the opening of a TVA and the Electric Power Research Institute solar-assisted electric vehicle charging station in Knoxville.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga State Community College offers electric vehicle charging stations.

Chattanooga State Community College offers electric vehicle charging...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

POLL: Can you see yourself buying an electric car?

One block from Warehouse Row - a remnant of Chattanooga's manufacturing heritage - four quiet, all-electric and eco-friendly vehicles sat on display Tuesday.

The vehicles belong to various parties of Ride the Future, a campaign for electric cars ... and motorcycles and scooters.

"We're doing this to make a point," said Susan Jones, a world traveler and developer of the ride. After seeing the "scooter culture" in different parts of the globe like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), across Europe and South America, Jones said she wanted to show the United States that being energy efficient isn't merely for the poor or underdeveloped.

"You can't just keep doing things the way they've been done because it's comfortable and easy," she said, speaking of the gas-powered American auto industry.

Jones actually doesn't prefer traditional automobiles at all. She is riding a Xenon electric scooter across the country: a daunting 3,750-mile trek, not always sticking to the interstate.

She said she and her companions are out to prove it can be done.

"You can literally go all the way across the United States in an electric vehicle in 2013," she said. "The infrastructure is there."

And the cost of her ride is anything but intimidating. One of Jones' partners on the ride, Ben Rich, estimates Jones' scooter will use a whole $40 in electricity, give or take a few miles. He estimated that smaller electric vehicles such as his own electric motorcycle only use about one cent per mile in juice.

Rich said on his personal electric bill, the cost of charging his bike is nearly negligible, at less than the cost to run air conditioning.

In some places, electric vehicle drivers get to recharge for free, thanks to public recharging stations. Rich showed off three iPhone applications Tuesday that direct drivers to all the recharging stations in the area and even the state. A lot of state parks now offer recharge stations, he added, which is a great amenity that allows electric drivers to sight-see and recharge at the same time.

Tim Lee, a Chattanooga resident and seasoned electric Nissan Leaf owner, came out to meet like-minded drivers and talk about his own experience going gas-free.

"It's economic, it's new, it's different and it's cutting edge," he said of his first thoughts on the electric Nissan when it debuted in 2010. He bought his Leaf on May 17, 2011, and he said he has enjoyed the electric experience, with a few minor exceptions. Cost of ownership, he said, is somewhat nagging, with batteries -- the lifeblood of the Leaf -- being nearly impossible to replace if one should go bad. So far, he said, Nissan has only offered to rent new batteries at $100 per month to Leaf drivers. He said leasing is the way to go.

"My one regret?" Lee said, "That I bought it."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at agreen@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6731.