Chattanooga Times Free Press: Alexander says TVA region can ‘lead the country’ on electric vehicle use

Posted on September 9, 2010

NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said Wednesday the Tennessee Valley Authority region “has a chance to lead the country in encouraging Americans to switch to electric cars and trucks.”

In hopes of helping make that happen, Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen announced that the state will offer consumers a $2,500 rebate for the first 1,000 electric-powered Nissan Leafs purchased in the state.

Both spoke at TVA’s Fuel Solutions Forum in Nashville, a venue for discussions about education and strategies needed to help consumers, communities and industry achieve “plug-in readiness” as electric vehicles become widely available.

Alexander said that because of a combination of factors, “we can be first in electric cars. We have a head start because Nissan’s building electric cars here (in Tennessee), making batteries here.”

He noted that Chattanooga’s EPB, a power distributor, has a world-class, “sophisticated electricity-delivery system” matched only by Hong Kong’s.

EPB can say to its 170,000 customers that, “if you plug in at night with your electric car, we’ll sell you cheap electricity that we bought from TVA that’s not being used at night,” he said.

Bredesen said the Leaf rebate program, tied to the state’s participation in the national Electric Vehicle Project, will accompany a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 on the purchase of electric vehicles. The rebate and tax credit would come off the Leaf’s anticipated $32,780 retail price.

“This makes it just a little bit easier for Tennesseans to be pioneers in trying out electric cars and making it accessible,” Bredesen said.

The rebate money is being provided by a federal program funded by decades-old oil industry overcharges.

Bredesen said the program could be expanded later to include the Chevrolet Volt, but the decision would be left to his successor, who’ll be elected Nov. 2.

Nissan North America Inc. is building a lithium-ion battery plant just outside Nashville as part of a plan to build the Leaf, a five-passenger all-electric car. The car goes on sale in December with plans to build them in Tennessee by 2012.

Tennessee’s plant is part of a $1.7 billion investment, much of it coming from a federal loan aimed at fostering energy independence.

Tennessee is one of six states and Washington, D.C., participating in the Electric Vehicle Project, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and will set up nearly 15,000 charging stations in 16 cities in six states.

In October and November, 1,535 charging stations for electric vehicles will be scattered across Tennessee and extreme Northwest Georgia at rest areas, welcome centers, malls and big-box stores.

Another 1,000 charging stations will be put in the homes of early-bird buyers of the Leaf, who are to get their cars in December.

Also in October and November, 37 smart-charging stations will be set up in the greater Chattanooga area to prepare for the Leaf and the 2011 launch of the plug-in hybrid Volt.