FEBRUARY 8, 2020 — Tennessee’s planned installation of 50 new fast-charging stations is a big step for electric vehicle makers, manufacturers and EV owners, like Hannah Harper, who travels the state’s roadways. Harper, a TVA Sarbanes-Oxley analyst, is helping curb emissions at work and when she’s off the clock.
For her growing family of three, TVA’s partnership with the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation is more than a news splash about Hannah’s employer. It’s 50 promises and the added convenience of a fast charge.
“There are many advantages of owning an electric vehicle, but sometimes it takes a little pre-planning when it comes to longer trips,” Hannah said. “Even the weather can affect how much charge we get, so there are extra things we have to take into consideration.”
TVA’s announcement is a game-changer for owners of electric cars, like the Harpers. Strategic placement of the fast-charging stations every 50 miles along Tennessee’s interstates and major highways alleviates the range anxiety that EV owners often experience.
As part of the plan, TVA is working with local power companies to design a charging-station experience that ensures convenience and easy access to everyday amenities. The well-placed stations will offer variety and diversity of locale.
“We sometimes have to stop at one of the only fast-charging stations on the route between Chattanooga and Nashville, where my family lives,” said Hannah’s husband, Todd. “Having more stop-off options available will be huge for us. With a 350 kw fast-charging station, we can be fully charged in under half an hour,” Todd said. “It takes much longer with traditional chargers, which are only about 50kw.”
Before the couple’s son, Theo, was born in October, they knew they needed a larger, more family-friendly vehicle. They chose a midsized, electric SUV in part because of the space it provides for their new addition. It offers not only roominess needed for car seats, strollers, and groceries (the lack of engine in EVs allows for tons of added storage space in the hood area), but also an unrivaled tech functionality.
“That’s something you don’t see with traditional cars,” said Hannah. “Our SUV has self-driving capability, it can find us where we are in parking lots, and it has software updates whenever Tesla introduces new features. It would take years for the technology to seem outdated because it’s always updating to what’s most current.”
In addition to TVA’s commitment to triple the amount of EV fast-charging stations in the Valley, private companies and government agencies alike are making the shift.
Last week, GM announced its plan to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035 and become carbon-neutral by 2040. Amazon is working with electric-transportation startup, Rivian, to build the tech giant’s first fully-electric delivery vehicle. Valley-made Volkswagen tripled its deliveries of all-EVs in 2020. And, a new executive order now requires all federal vehicles to be replaced with US-built EVs, totaling around 645,000 nationwide.
According to the Harpers, all this is indicative of the rise in American-made EVs, and the ongoing trend toward environmentally friendly – and tech savvy – cars.
“Owning an EV is a lifestyle change, from being able to charge up at home overnight to no longer needing to stop off at the gas station when you’re running late,” said Hannah. “It’s a massive shift. I can be sitting on my couch and check the app on my phone to see how much charge I have.”
The couple recently had their own universal charging station installed outside their home. The station will allow them to add a second EV.
“I’m planning to get the Rivian electric truck later in the year,” said Todd. “Living on a mountain and seeing how my current truck hauls versus our Tesla, it’s no comparison. EVs can do anything a traditional vehicle can.”
Even the family’s two dogs benefit from the EV perks – from a cooling “dog mode” that keeps fresh air flowing to a safety message that appears on the screen when left in the car.
“I would encourage anyone who’s considering electric to go for it,” said Hannah. “It’s exciting to be part of the future, and projects like the new charging stations are going to continue to make it more and more of a realistic and convenient option for people.”