Tennesseans Hesitate to Buy Electric Cars

Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf, hit the market almost six months ago, but so far only 79* have sold in Tennessee. Sales have topped 2,000 in the six other states where it’s available. Tennessee’s small numbers come despite big incentives.

“This is one of the most frustrating things I have to say about being a clean energy advocate is that efficiency isn’t cool. I have no idea how this happened.”

Phyllis Cuttino is an electric car advocate for the PEW Charitable Trusts. She led a discussion at Nissan headquarters in Franklin this week on how to get over the hump of consumer reluctance. There’s been more interest in the Leaf on the West Coast than in Tennessee, even though the car will be made in Smyrna starting next winter. Nissan’s Tracy Woodard thinks it may take awhile for that interest to kick in.

“I think it’s gonna be a movement that people are going to get to eventually. We wish it would be sooner rather than later, but we do think it’s an ongoing process…”

While there is hesitation among Tennessee buyers, it is a heavily subsidized market. State and federal incentives can shave $10,000 off the sticker price. And the U.S. Department of Energy is paying to set up 2,500 chargers in the state. However, the company installing the chargers says if it doesn’t get more interest, the chargers may go elsewhere.

*We previously reported that there had been 28 Leafs sold in Tennessee. That number was based on the dollar amount of tax rebates that the Tennessee Department of Revenue says it has refunded Nissan dealerships. According to a Nissan spokesperson, 79 of the electric cars have been sold and delivered, though not all purchasers received the rebate. As for reservations for the Leaf, Nissan does not provide a state-by-state breakdown. The Nissan spokesperson says that the demand in Tennessee is in line with their expectations.

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