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Infrastructure paves road for electric cars

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In this undated photo, Dr. Juris Shibayama uses an electric vehicle charging stationat StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna, Tenn. (Photo submitted)
Less than half a percent of cars registered in Rutherford County are electric, but local companies continue installing charging stations in an effort to build the infrastructure necessary for the future.

As of Nov. 2, only 218 electric vehicles are registered in Rutherford County, compared to the 225,017 total vehicles registered, according to data provided by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

That percentage is only slightly lower than the 11,443 electric vehicles that are registered out of 12.7 million registered statewide.

While that number may be low, Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said the infrastructure must be in place before more car buyers will opt for electric vehicles.

“If we’re going to encourage people to use those kinds of vehicles, we’re going to have to provide the charging stations,” Burgess said.

He pointed out, in the past, the government subsidized the cost for charging stations, but that is no longer the case.

“At some point, if these sales increase the way people are hoping they will, the government or someone will have to assist in installing more of these stations,” Burgess said. “We’d like to encourage more people to use those vehicles, and we have to be supportive in locating the stations that would be in the right places to really accommodate people’s needs.”

He saluted Lebanon-based Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which installed electric vehicle chargers at select locations in an area known as the Tennessee Triangle, the 425-mile stretch of interstate highway that connects Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga.

The Cracker Barrel on Chaffin Place in Murfreesboro received its charging station about a year ago.

In all, 24 Cracker Barrel locations have chargers. A guest could, if desired, drive the entire 425 miles of the Tennessee Triangle, re-charging at Cracker Barrel locations along the way.

“That’s the right leadership for businesses like that to take,” Burgess said. “They’re really supporting the process. (Electric vehicles and charging stations) sort of come together, but someone has to take little bit of risk and put the infrastructure out there. When considering purchasing these vehicles, consumers won’t be concerned about running out battery.”

Most recently, StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna installed six charging stations for its guests, staff and physicians.

The charging stations are located in the main parking area with access to both the hospital and the physician’s building, hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Bowen said.

Bowen said the facility’s new charging stations are part of the EV Project, a federally funded deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. Hospital administers made the nearly $20,000 investment in the charging stations as a way to provide yet another service, all while continuing its aim to be environmentally friendly.

“We considered the installation of the electric vehicle charging stations to be an expansion of our existing environmental sustainability program,” said Zach McCluskey, chief operating officer of StoneCrest. “We have focused initiatives on recycling and waste reduction to minimize our impact on the environment. In fact, we’re recycling 85 percent of the waste generated from the construction of our new neonatal intensive care unit.”

The charging stations are quickly being utilized by Dr. Juris Shibayama, orthopaedic spine surgeon at StoneCrest.

“The hospital installing charging stations eliminated an obstacle to my use of the electric vehicle,” he said. “I am proud that I’ve been able to help lead the way for the electric car movement.”

Shibayama added that he feels his efforts to raise awareness about the benefits of the electric vehicle may encourage others to transition to electric.

He said he hopes this will eventually result in environmental improvements and local economic growth when the car is manufactured in Smyrna.  

While individual companies do not track the usage of the charging stations, there is one group keeping record.

ECOtality Inc. is the company managing the EV Project, which is designed to help build America’s future infrastructure. The EV Project is the largest deployment of electric vehicles and charge infrastructure in history. It also lent a hand to Cracker Barrel, as a pilot of the program.

Ecotality announced in October it has surpassed one million EV residential events on its Blink chargers.

“Through the data recorded on Blink chargers for the EV Project, we have clearly demonstrated the viability of this marketplace and continued growth of EV’s across the nation,” said Ravi Brar, chief executive officer of ECOtality. “Recording more than one million charge events is not only an iconic milestone for ECOtality, the EV Project and the industry, but it is also proof that EVs are here to stay.”

Blink has also achieved another key milestone - 40 million miles of driver data recorded, and more than 1.70 million gallons of gas saved. This number is up from the 880,000 charge events reported for in the second quarter of this year.

The data that will be used to support the deployment of EVs in key markets.
Read more from:
County Commission, Cracker Barrel, ECOtality, Environment, Ernest Burgess, EV Project, Rutherford County, Smyrna, StoneCrest, Tennessee, Transportation
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Members Opinions:
December 10, 2012 at 7:18pm
I am so happy to hear about more facilities installing electric charging stations! While at this point in my life I can only dream about owning an electric car, it does make having one more accessible, obviously. I think part of the resistance to the electric car is being stuck somewhere with no more “juice”. Having mainstream locations with charging stations is a huge step in the right direction. I think Cracker Barrel made a very smart move by adding charging stations. Although there may not be a large population with electric cars, those who do have them know where they can get a boost, and of course some food. I only wish that a fast food location would install charging stations as well. While I am not advocating for people to eat more fast food, we all know there are more McDonald’s than there are Cracker Barrels. Having a larger chain of stores with these stations might convince even more people that an electric car isn’t such a bad idea. Even though our nation is in debt, I think it is important for the government to step in and help with the installation of more stations. The environment is a problem that is recognized by the government so they need to get in and help out as well. I don’t know any statistics, but when people got a tax break for installing solar panels on their house or even when they got an incentive to buy a house, more people probably did just that. We need serious help to fix the problems of the environment, and changing a few lightbulbs won’t get us all the way there.
December 11, 2012 at 9:55am
I agree with the idea of inserting Electric Vehicle Chargers throughout Rutherford County. If Mayor Burgess is serious in his efforts to promote the use of Electric Vehicles in the area, he is going to have to provide a means for people to charge their cars.
People are much more likely to purchase an Electric Vehicle if they can see there are plenty of charging stations around, and that they are placed in areas where they travel most.
Gas prices are so back and forth right now, and it is almost impossible to find a gas station that does not have a line of cars looped around it twice waiting to fill up. If there are only a few charging stations available for people to charge his or her Electric Vehicles, the same problem is going to occur.
Owning an Electric Vehicle should be an entirely different experience than owning a gas powered automobile. Waiting in line for a charging station to open up is too reminiscent of being trapped at a gas station.
Electric Vehicles are a great way to help better take care of the environment. Owning an Electric Vehicle could be the solution to so many environmental and economical problems.
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