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Electric cars get fully charged, courtesy of taxpayers

NASHVILLE — Few Tennesseans are taking advantage of the free, taxpayer funded electricity to power their electric-powered vehicles.

What environmentally conscious person who can afford to pay for a shiny, all-electric $36,000 Nissan Leaf wouldn’t want taxpayers paying to charge up their new toys at hundreds of charging stations throughout Tennessee?

Is the Boogeyman lurking behind the chargers, savoring the chance to jump out and traumatize anyone who dares to use them?

PLUG IT IN: Two of the electric-car charging stations at the famed Loveless Cafe outside Nashville, which, according to the restaurant’s owner, never get used. (Photo by Chris Butler)

Are the stations themselves radioactive, possibly making users glow in the dark?

Are there any souls brave enough to use these devices?

Tennessee Watchdog wanted to know these answers firsthand, so we spent considerable time at three of Tennessee’s nearly 600 stations.

The result — not a single person showed up.

At the famed Loveless Café, outside Nashville, manager Marc Browne said he’s never seen anyone use either of the two chargers located outside his restaurant.

“Actually, no, I don’t see either one of them being used at all, even at peak times when business is heavy.”

Tennessee Watchdog also found no takers at the Brentwood Public Library and the Nashville Airport Marriott.

Just because Tennessee Watchdog didn’t see anybody, however, doesn’t mean other people aren’t using the meters on other days, said Nashville Airport Marriott General Manager Shannon Bowles.

Bowles would not provide specifics, but she said a large number of her clients only do business with hotels that support green initiatives.

She also said several people in a nearby office complex use the charging stations on a regular basis.

“I’d say out of five days of the week, we see somebody charging up out there at least four out of the five days. After all, they need to be used. You can’t go very far in a battery-powered car without charging them up,” Bowles said.

WAITING: A fleet of Nissan Leafs at a Nissan dealership in Nashville (Photo by Chris Butler

Most electric-powered cars, including the Leaf, can only travel 100 miles before drivers must recharge them.

A public-private partnership between the federal Department of Energy and the private firm ECO-tality puts the burden of charging the cars squarely on taxpayers.



3 comments to Electric cars get fully charged, courtesy of taxpayers

  • stevedj_98

    How many inaccurate statements do you see in this article?

    Here is my reply to the author:

    Hey Chris:

    In Chattanooga, the public, level two, Ecotality chargers cost $1.00 an hour to connect to your electric vehicle. I know, because I drive a 100% electric Nissan LEAF, and have an Ecotality RFID card to access the chargers and bill my account. Over 8,600 trouble-free, no oil, no gas miles on my LEAF. I do about 90% of my charging in my home garage with a BLINK charger, which is indeed, provided free of charge by BUT as part of the deal, every charge, as well as my daily mileage, speed and other “blackbox” data from the car go to the Feds. By the way, I have solar panels on my home, so my charging at home is free. Gallons of Sunshine!

    The LEAF is the best car I have every owned, and I’m 66 years old. Now that Nissan is assembling the 2013 LEAF in Smyrna, TN the price will come down considerably.

    Also check on tax credits and rebates for the Chevy Volt. To my knowledge, both the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid are eligible for the maximum $7,500 Federal tax credit. I believe the same is true for the state of Tennessee $2,500 rebate.

    As far as state gas tax, I’ve read that Oregon and Indiana are looking at a $100 per year tax on 100% electric cars.

    We have two public solar-powered charging carports in Chattanooga. The one at Whole Foods, has five chargers. And I’ve seen all five charging electric cars at the same time.

    The biggest problem we have here with the EV chargers are the non-electric 60’s muscle cars or huge SUV’s parked in the charger spaces. I’ve only been able to use the Quick Charger at the East Ridge Cracker Barrel one time in my six or seven visits there in the past year, because an internal combustion engine vehicle was parked in an EV charging spot.

    Finally, if you have never driven a LEAF or Volt, go test drive one sometime. I was the publicity chairman for National Plug In Day, Chattanooga. We had over 300 people attend our event. When taking a test drive, most folks expect these cars to be glorified golf carts. Absolutely false. 0-60 in 9 seconds, with instant torque. My 2011 LEAF has navigation, Bluetooth for each of the five passengers, backup camera, keyless entry–everything you expect in an upscale car. And the comments from those driving an EV for the first time? Most were simply “wow” with a few saying “holy crap” or “amazing.”

    Stephen Schmidt
    Chattanooga TN

  • dblo

    During the evolution of EV and Plug-in, there will be kinks and bumps along the way as the stake holders try to find sweet spots. I am certain EV and Plug-in are here to stay.

    ICE cars have run its course, and it is time to move off of petro-based economy and on to cleaner, sustainable renewables such solar, wind and geothermal. California is leading the world with forward looking policies, regulations, and incentives. The state is on its way to get more than 33% of energy supply from renewables by 2020, 7 years from now.

    If you ask the Leaf owners in California, you will find that more than half of them have solar panels in their homes.

    I charge my 2011 Leaf at home nightly, and after 33,000 miles I have visited public charging only about 3 times or so at Target store for free. Some day when fast charging is available at more places, I can take longer trip and may be even driving across the country.

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