In a state that is increasingly associated with the auto industry, the landscape is about to get a major volt of change.
As one of five states participating in what the U.S. Department of Energy describes as “the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure ever undertaken,” Tennessee will soon partake in the unveiling of the new, emission-free, all-electric Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt.
In recent years, Tennessee has become the epicenter of the auto industry’s southern migration. Automakers with a formidable presence in the state include Nissan, Peterbilt and General Motors, which chose the state as the home of its Saturn Corp. brand.
While the unveiling of the new electric cars may not yet pose a serious threat to the entrenched and monolithic, fuel-powered vehicle industry, it symbolizes what may be a turning point in the history of the horseless carriage. It also represents a milestone in the larger movement toward greater reliance on renewable power.
Tennessee and participating cities are losing no time getting prepared. In Knoxville alone, more than 350 charging stations are being installed at various locations around the city. The public charging stations will complement the in-home charging stations that owners of the new cars will receive, providing drivers with greater range between charges.
Taking the theme of clean fuel one step further, of the 350 charging stations in Knoxville, many of them will be solar-powered. The solar-powered stations will be installed at locations owned by the city, the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will participate in the project by analyzing data collected at the charging stations.
The new vehicles are expected to be released, starting in December.