Turning A New Leaf

[UPDATE]: Just in the nick of time, too.

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Sorry, the headline is lame, I’m still on my first cup of coffee (which is how most of my posts are written), but I find this very exciting news:

State officials hope to give a boost to electric car sales with a $2,500 incentive to early buyers of the Nissan Leaf in Tennessee via a program that could later be extended to buyers of other alternative fuel vehicles.

Gov. Phil Bredesen, speaking during a TVA conference on electric vehicles Wednesday, said the state plans to tap a petroleum escrow fund marked for energy projects to provide rebates of $2,500 to the first 1,000 buyers of the new Nissan Leaf electric car later this year.

“There’s no reason Tennessee can’t take the lead … in the development of electric vehicles,” the governor said. “We want their components to be made here and sold worldwide with a ‘Made in Tennessee’ label.”

The $2.5 million state program, which provides perks on purchases in addition to generous federal incentives to buyers of electric cars, makes Tennessee at least the second state with such extra benefits. California has a $5,000 incentive for buyers of all-electric, plug-in vehicles.

I might as well ‘fess up and let everyone know I’ve been on the waiting list for the Nissan Leaf for the past five months. I work from home so it’s perfect for someone like me: My driving is mostly around town doing errands, going to hockey and football games, shopping, etc. I have solar panels on my roof so I won’t have to feel too guilty about the electricity I’m using for fuel. And our garage is perfect for installation of a home charger. Mr. Beale already drives a Nissan but his car was getting some mileage on it. So we’ll trade it in for a Leaf, and we’ve got the hybrid if we need to drive further than 100 miles, which is maybe eight times a year.

Anyway, I’m excited about the new incentives. There’s so much right about this program, not the least of which is the fact that these cars are made right here in Tennessee. I love that I’m creating jobs for my neighbors and also helping the environment.

I know our state gets a bum rap for a lot of the silly stuff we do, but the Tennessee EV program is actually quite advanced. We’re actually way ahead of states like Vermont and Oregon and whatnot, states one usually assumes to be green and progressive. We’ll have a network of charging stations so I could, actually, drive my EV all around the state (and perhaps I will and blog about it):

Jonathan Read, CEO of San Francisco firm ECOtality, said Tennessee would be the first state to take the electric vehicle beyond the 100-mile range that is rapidly becoming the standard for all-electric mass-production vehicles like the forthcoming Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric expected next year.

He said: “With these plans completed, the state of Tennessee will emerge as a leader in EV adoption, and serve as a critical blueprint for how best to connect major population areas with EV infrastructure.

“We are thankful for the input TVA and our partners in each city have provided throughout the planning process. We are taking a smart and strategic approach to the deployment of EV infrastructure so as to best create a connected, highly functional EV charging network,” added Mr Read.

Kim Greene, president of Strategy and External Relations at TVA, said there was a “groundswell of enthusiasm” already growing in the TVA area and the entire state as a result of The EV Project.

I’m just so proud of our state for being leaders in this critically important area. I’m proud of TVA and I’m proud of Gov. Bredesen.

And I’m worried. Just a teensy weensy bit worried. Because here’s the thing that’s so radical about EVs: no internal combustion engine! Wrap your head around that one for a minute. That means no tailpipe. That means no gas station stops — ever. No need for fill-ups. No need for oil changes. Nada.

The only reason you will ever need to stop at a gas station is to buy a soft drink. And think about how Mr. Haslam’s family makes its money: gas stations. So, if Bill Haslam is our next governor (and it’s looking likely) I do have a concern that he will self-servingly try to obstruct this program. It’s mostly a federal program and he can’t mess with it too much, I don’t think, and it looks like it may be too far along for him to screw it up even if he wanted to, but I think it’s a fair question.

Having seen the excellent documentary “Who Killed The Electric Car?” and seen how politics can destroy a pilot program (especially when the corporation behind it isn’t fully on board) I think my fears are justified.

In California, people literally were trying to hide their EV’s from GM. The auto maker went around and repossessed every car it could find when Bush’s EPA challenged the state’s air quality law which created the market for EVs. Eventually every EV was crushed. Stupidly, of course, but they did it. It was about politics, nothing more, and GM paid for its stupidity and short-sightedness. Let’s hope they learned a lesson because the EV ain’t dead, it’s alive and well and the wave of the future.

And I am just putting Nissan and Bill Haslam and the oil lobby on notice: not again. From my cold, dead hands, people.

10 Comments

Filed under electric car, environment, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee, TVA

10 responses to “Turning A New Leaf

  1. >I don't trust GM about technology any longer. Didja ever get the feeling they just built crap small cars, diesels, and hatchbacks in the '70s and '80s to simply "poison the well", create a couple generations of Americans who reflexively didn't want those types of cars?On the other hand, we have a Nissan, built in Mexico, which my wife hasn't even destroyed. For that reason I instinctively trust their RBQ.

  2. >Gaah. Why are you stilll using blogger commenting? Anyway, you'll still have to take that no tailpipe car in to the inspection stations until the letter of the law catches up with the technology. Also, Lamar's getting one too. Does't that make you all warm and comforted inside?

  3. >Coal powered car versus gas powered car: which is less polluting?Might want to consider the whole chain of pollution before you make what appears to be a "feel good" purchase. Me? I live downtown. A bike and a backpack is all it takes for me to ride down Jefferson to the Farmers Market, the Post Office, the gym, and the beer store. If I could figure out how to haul 2×4's and drywall on a bike I would be set.

  4. >Anonynous you missed the part where I said I have solar panels on my roof. So my car won't be coal powered, it will be sun powered.The point is, we have alternative ways of generating electricity. The EV charging stations going up around the state are supposedly going to be solar powered. I think it's solar-assisted, as in not 100% solar powered but still, it's a start. We have lots of clean ways of generating electricity.As far as riding my bike around town I'd love to except where I live you're taking your life in your hands. Last time I tried to ride my bike to the grocery store I was nearly run off the road.

  5. > you'll still have to take that no tailpipe car in to the inspection stations until the letter of the law catches up with the technology.That will be fun. I'll have to video the MARTA guys trying to figure out where to stick that exhaust fume monitor. They already freak out when I bring my hyrbid in because, you know, it "idles" on electricity. No engine running, they always think I've turned it off.I imagine TDOT will have to figure out some special licensing/registration thing for EVs.

  6. >Beal,That is a lot of solar cells. The leaf needs 24kilowatts to recharge. Current solar cells generate about 1000 watts per 100 square feet. That is 2400 square feet of solar cells. And typically we have cloud cover in TN about 30% of the time. I don't know how to account for that. Typical install costs are around 9000$ per kilowatt. That looks like like more than 200,000 dollars in solar cell, batteries, and regulating systems. Bikes are cheaper.Or you can buy a used honda CRX and get 50 miles per gallon.http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/noframes/5263.shtmlLooks like they are averaging around 3-4k dollars on ebay.

  7. >I think the great thing about the new energy economy is the flexibility. Not everyone lives in an urban area that has great public transit like a Manhattan or D.C. Not everyone lives or works in a place where it's practical to commute on a bike or on foot. For those that do it's great to do it and for those who don't it's great to have alternatives.I'm excited that Nashville is moving in that direction: I was forwarded a survey metro is doing on making Green Hills more traffic friendly, and that means tearing down fences and walls that make walking from one establishment to another impossible, and putting in sidewalks and putting in bike lanes. That will be great when it happens. And I think it's great that EVs are coming on board for those for whom other alternatives are not practical.And in the same way, solar power isn't practical for everyone, wind power isn't practical for everyone, but places where it is, it's great to avail ourselves of it. As I wrote back in August, our energy consumption is dropping. Coal AND petroleum, and it's dropping faster than the economic slowdown alone can explain.Part of the reason if conservation and energy efficiency. Part of the reason is natural gas, which to me is just as nasty as coal. Fracking is horribly polluting. But we ARE getting more efficient and we ARE using less of the bad stuff, and we ARE using more renewables and I don't see that stopping.

  8. >So have you picked yours up yet, Beale?http://green.autoblog.com/2011/03/01/gm-sells-281-chevy-volts-february-nissan-67-leafs/Looks like they need all the help they can get

  9. >I've been on the waiting list since last May. They said mine will be ready in May. That's 12 months to wait for a car — a first for me! But I'm ready.I don't know what you're implying by the "they need all the help they can get" quip, but if you're trying to say there is no EV demand, you're wrong.I can't speak for the Chevy Volt but I know Nissan's Leaf is being launched very slowly and strategically. It's not available to everyone — you had to apply to get one, and not everyone who applied was deemed suitable. You had to meet parameters in terms of daily vehicle use, ability to install a charger (which limits the Leaf to those who own their own homes and have a garage), flexibility to work with Nissan as they unroll the vehicle ( The cars are made to order so if you need your new car tomorrow that ain't happening), etc. Furthermore, priority was given to people in certain markets where the infrastructure already existed or was being implemented — Tennessee and California among them. If you live in Florida, sorry.Initial reservations for the Nissan Leaf actually far exceeded expectations. And in fact, the frustration is that it's taking so long for deliveries.