EV industry making progress in Tennessee, nearly doubling number of charging locations in the last year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Electric vehicles (EVs), though quiet, have loudly burst onto the scene in Tennessee in the last few years. The main issue, though, has been infrastructure.

“Infrastructure has been the chicken and the egg,” said Drive Electric Nashville founder Justin Huff.

It’s a tough sell for car companies. Do you invest in electric vehicle manufacturing when there really aren’t enough charging ports yet, or do you risk getting left behind once the infrastructure catches up?

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In Tennessee, the Dept. of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is trying to help that through a program called the Fast Charge TN Network.

“It’s building out fast-charging infrastructure along, really, all Tennessee major roadways,” TDEC senior energy analyst Mark Finlay said. “That includes the interstates, as well as secondary US and state highways.”

Of course, Tennessee politics haven’t exactly helped the push. The majority of Tennessee’s Congressional delegation has consistently voted against changes favoring electric vehicles.

At the same time, this year, the state passed a bill from the governor that increases EV fees from $100 a year to $274 by 2026.

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But the industry hopes newer, younger lawmakers have a different mindset.

“The next generation will be the lawmakers in place that are way more entrenched and understanding of the perspective of sustainability,” Huff said.

Still, TDEC is making progress.

In 2023 alone, Tennessee added nine rapid charging stations, effectively doubling its total fleet.

“Most of Tennessee is very rural,” Finlay said. “We’re seeing communities seizing these opportunities, basically saying, ‘Hey, if we bring this infrastructure to our town, that’s going to invite folks to visit our town.’”

It’s a concept known as ‘EV Tourism.’ If you put chargers in place, EV owners might be enticed to spend more time in your area.

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“Five years ago, if I had an EV, and I wanted to go visit Fall Creek Falls State Park, I would have to be very concerned about how I’m going to get there and back and how far out of the way I might have to go for charging,” Finlay said.

But then, late last year, the state put in two chargers at the park, and that concern is moot.

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