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VOL. 126 | NO. 37 | Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Memphis Closer to Electric Vehicle Technology

By Bill Dries

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Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division should have 10 locations up and running by September for public charging stations for electric vehicles.

And Tennesseans who buy a Nissan Leaf, the all-electric vehicle coming to the market in 2012, will get a free home charging station as part of federal government incentives in six states and Washington as well as state government incentives in Tennessee.

The announcement was made Tuesday morning as corporate and government leaders kicked off a series of four meetings across the state on “The EV Project.”

The project is an attempt to build a charging infrastructure for electric cars in Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.

“We’re going to have all of these stations installed by September of this year,” said MLGW president Jerry Collins. “MLGW is going to simplify the charging needs of our customers. We’re going to make the use of electric vehicles as simple and easy as we can possibly make it.

“The message is, ‘Let’s become less dependent on foreign oil,’” Collins said citing political upheaval in the Middle East and $3 a gallon gasoline in Memphis.

Collins said the utility’s plans beyond the charging stations include service vehicles that would provide a recharge to electric vehicles that might become stranded on roads. The alert system could use a smart phone application.

The utility will also buy five EVs this year for its fleet including an electric bucket truck.

MLGW board chairman Darrell Cobbins called the planning for the stations a “milestone for Memphis and Shelby County.”

“One of the places we’re looking at is Shelby Farms,” he said in talking about a solar powered charging station.

ECOtality North America, the private company supplying the charging technology, hosted the meeting to seek letters of intent from owners of locations willing to host one of the stations.

Memphis was originally left out of the EV project by former Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration but was later included after Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. complained about the omission.

The state plan, however, includes a series of public charging stations along routes connecting Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville, but none that would link Memphis to those other cities.

The public charging stations would take about 26 minutes to recharge an EV to 80 percent of its battery capacity.

The home systems which would plug into a standard wall outlet would require 20 hours to recharge batteries.

There is a middle ground between the two that would provide a home charge in seven hours.

The incentives for buying an electric vehicle include a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $2,500 Tennessee tax rebate. The state tax rebate applies to a certain number of electric vehicles.

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