EPB to add fast chargers, join the Fast 50 network to boost the use of electric vehicles

To help kick-start what EPB officials are touting as a cleaner, electricity-driven future in transportation, the city utility plans to develop a fast-charging station over the next year along one of the Chattanooga Interstate Highways.

EPB is one of a dozen local utilities that are sharing $5.2 million in grants as part of the latest round of aid the state of Tennessee is providing to add 32 fast-charging units at 13 sites across the state to help charge electric vehicles. The program is part of a “Fast 50” initiative across Tennessee to ensure there are fast recharges every 50 miles for all battery-powered vehicles on major state highways.

By next summer, the EPB of Chattanooga, the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative in Dunlap, and the cities of Dayton and Athens will be among local governments adding fast-charging stations in each of their cities. Each local government will provide up to $60,000 to match state grants of up to $300,000 for each community.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, which announced grant recipients this week, is funding the program using a portion of what Volkswagen paid Tennessee to settle its diesel engine pollution violations that produced ten years ago with faulty exhaust emissions data. The state is distributing part of the VW settlement to local power companies to add more charging stations and alleviate some of the range anxiety for EV riders traveling longer distances.

“We are pleased to be able to use these funds in a way that serves all motorists with electric vehicles,” Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers said in an announcement of the new grants. “We are rapidly moving towards more electric vehicles on our roads, and this is a way to stay ahead of that demand.”

PEB Vice President J. Ed. Marston said the Chattanooga fast-charging station will be equipped to service up to four vehicles at a time.

“We see this as a convenience for our customers and visitors to our city and a way to help grow the electric vehicle market,” Marston said in a phone interview Friday.

According to online charging service plugshare.com, Chattanooga already has about 175 public charging stations, one of the highest numbers of any city in Tennessee. But most of these chargers require a few hours to fully charge a car battery.

Level 3 fast charges planned for the “Fast 50” allow most electric vehicles to be charged to at least 80% of their capacity in 30 minutes of charging time.

The Tennessee Valley Authority promises that at least 80 fast-charging stations will be installed within five years to cover major highways in TVA’s seven-state service territory. TVA is contributing $15 million to the network and plans to fund 21 projects in Tennessee, which will include the installation of 56 charging stations at 27 sites.

Fort Payne, Alabama launched the first of these 80 fast chargers at one of its downtown parks in January to help electric vehicle drivers traveling on Interstate 59.

Charging stations are designed both to help EV drivers and give them a reason to stop in town. Marston said the EPB is still reviewing possible sites, but any location will be near restaurants, shops and other local amenities that motorists can go to while their cars are charged.

Environment and conservation spokeswoman Kim Schofinski said in a statement that studies have shown that one of the barriers to buying an electric car is range anxiety. , or the fear that a vehicle will run out of charge and the driver will be stuck. The network of charging stations added with the “Fast 50” program is designed to give drivers the confidence that they can go anywhere in the state without having to worry.

TVA officials said that with a majority of TVA’s electricity now coming from carbon-free nuclear, hydro, solar and wind generation, electric vehicles do not pollute the air as much as gasoline-powered vehicles.

“The electrification of transportation is key to helping our country meet its energy security and decarbonization goals,” TVA Chairman Jeff Lyash said in a statement about the initiative. “Today, thanks to Governor Lee and TDEC, our region is the nation’s epicenter for electric vehicle technology and manufacturing, and this grant shows how we can move the Tennessee Valley further and faster, together. , to make a cleaner future a reality.”

The Tennessee Valley is also emerging as a major electric vehicle production area with battery-powered vehicles assembled in Tennessee by Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors, and Ford Motor Co. plans to build a major factory of electric vehicles near Memphis. The Tennessee Valley is also home to several current or planned battery factories.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter @dflessner1.

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