An EV charging network of five Level 2 chargers and one DC Fast Charger is now live and available for all EV drivers to utilize in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. Part of a project run by Tennessee Technological University and funded by a grant from the US Department of Energy, these chargers will help increase the speed of EV availability and adoption in Cookeville, TN and the surrounding rural areas.

The new EV charging network has stations located throughout the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee.
The new EV charging network has stations located throughout the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee.

The six charging stations currently active are the first of nine EV charging units to be installed throughout the Upper Cumberland region. The first of the nine EV charging units is the DCFC unit that was installed at 320 University Drive, Cookeville, TN 38501. In the coming months, the remaining three EV charging stations – all of which will be Level-2 stations – will be installed in select locations in the surrounding counties. Combined, they will produce the beginnings of an EV charging network for the entire region that has largely had no focused EV-development efforts within it to date. Once the project is completed, it will have produced a “proof of concept roadmap” for how other rural areas across the U.S. can follow suit and help accelerate their development of EV charging and growth in use.

The six chargers now operating are located in the following towns and cities:

  1. Cookeville, TN – 62.5 kW DC fast charging station
  2. Lafayette, TN – 7.2 kW level-2 charging station
  3. Carthage, TN – 7.2 kW level-2 charging station
  4. Livingston, TN – 7.2 kW level-2 charging station
  5. Spencer, TN – 7.2 kW level-2 charging station
  6. Smithville, TN – 7.2 kW level-2 charging station

Beyond the new EV charging network, another facet of the project includes procuring five electrified vehicles, which include three Nissan Leafs, one all-electric E-450 passenger shuttle, and one plug-in hybrid F-250. Dr. Pingen Chen, the project’s Principal Investigator and an Assistant Professor at TN Tech, explained the importance of this aspect of the project. “The three Nissan Leafs are ready to be used now for educational purposes, such as showcasing the value of electric vehicles through Ride and Drive or Show and Tell types of experiences specifically for our rural community,” said Dr. Chen. “Many times, in our state, we see plenty of EV opportunities and accessibility available in metropolitan cities, whereas rural communities are not prioritized. Our goal is to provide information, education, and a variety of EV experiences and opportunities for business leaders and community members to have access to this new automobile technology and to help inform their buying decisions.”

While the Nissan Leafs will be utilized to showcase EV operations and driving ease to individuals and fleets in the entire region, the E-450 shuttle will be used specifically by the transportation department of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency. They plan to first utilize a TTU and downtown Cookeville route to operate the shuttle, but after any initial problems are worked out and the shuttle has proven its reliability in service, the department plans to move it to other routes around the 14-county region. Finally, the plug-in hybrid F-250 was specifically chosen as ‘best choice’ for getting farmers in the counties to test drive an electric vehicle. Jonathan Overly of ETCleanFuels notes, “if we really wanted to change the region’s farmers opinions about EVs, we thought that range restriction could make them test driving an EV a nonstarter. Thus, we elected to go with a plug-in hybrid so that they could finish any chore or task that they might handle on any given day.”

TTU’s project includes partnerships with Nissan North America, the East Tennessee Clean Fuels CoalitionChargePointSeven States Power Corporation, the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, the University of Texas at AustinPhoenix MotorcarsLyft and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.