Public Car Chargers Still Available in Tennessee

Businesses in Tennessee have been slower to adopt public car charging stations than first expected, in part because of uncertainty about the technology.

Potential hosts have voiced concerns about being on the hook for some of the costs. The charging units are paid for by a federal grant, but the electricity is not. Only utilities can charge directly for power, says James Ellis with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“Electricity is regulated. No one can resell electricity on a kilowatt hour basis.”

Some businesses have asked if they could charge for the power indirectly, like a parking fee.

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel has some of the programs first publicly available chargers in Middle Tennessee. General manager Tom Negri says they’re complimentary, like wireless Internet.

“We didn’t view this as a revenue opportunity and won’t be viewing it as a revenue opportunity. I was just so excited to see that two of our guests actually used it.”

Loews Vanderbilt’s car chargers became operational last week.

The federal government is giving away electric car charging stations in six states. And the company overseeing the project is having more trouble finding takers in Tennessee than elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Energy has set aside more than $100 million toward charging infrastructure to help jumpstart the electric car market.

Stephanie Cox oversees the project in Tennessee and says there’s no waiting list for the chargers. She says businesses have been reluctant because of the unknowns.

“There’s a lot more acceptance of infrastructure as being a viable, important amenity out West because they see a lot of these cars around. We’re not at that critical mass yet.”

Plans call for 2,500 charging stations in Tennessee. Cox says if she doesn’t get more businesses willing to host car charging stations, some that were allotted for Tennessee may go elsewhere. The federal grant also funds in-home chargers for people who buy the Nissan Leaf, which will soon be made in Smyrna.

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