TAEBC Annual Meeting 2020 highlights transportation electrification initiatives, advanced energy leadership

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) held another successful Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub earlier this month.

TNECD Commissioner and TDEC Commissioner Featured speakers included Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

The event kicked off with TAEBC awarding Dan Hurst, CEO and founder of Strata-G, with the second-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award, which honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Last year, the inaugural award went to Ballard himself.  

“As a founding board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Dan Hurst embodies the qualities of a servant leader,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director and Vice President of TAEBC. “His dedication and commitment to building a new organization that represents an entire industry that makes Tennessee a better state in which to live, work and play is truly admirable. That same vision and devotion have enabled Dan to lead and grow a successful business in East Tennessee that embraces energy innovation, environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Power Products, Emily Heitman, welcomed TAEBC to Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub and reinforced the company’s commitment to doing business in Tennessee. Her presentation was followed by Piper, who outlined TAEBC’S top achievements in 2019 and emphasized the organization’s goals and priorities moving into 2020. 

Next, Silicon Ranch Corporation’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations. Since launching Regenerative Energy with one 52-acre project in 2018, the program has grown exponentially with 31 projects on 5,923 acres throughout five states this year.

On TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network Panel, Helge Nestler, Founder and President of Ginko Technologies, pitched his startup and mission to accelerate the use of sustainable waste treatment methods to reduce landfills and recover energy from waste. Afterwards, he was joined by Ira Weiss, Energy Mentor Network Entrepreneur-in-Residence and principal of Weiss Associates, for a panel discussion about Nestler’s entrepreneurial journey and value of the Energy Mentor Network program for startups like Ginko Technologies.

Later, Drew Frye, Senior Power Utilization Engineer at TVA, spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state. In addition to providing a 10-year snapshot of the role of EVs from 2010 until now, Frye highlighted TVA’s role with Drive Electric Tennessee and what is next on the horizon for TVA, including improving charging infrastructure, enhancing consumer awareness, promoting supportive EV policies, and ensuring EV availability. 

Commissioner Salyers also spoke about Drive Electric Tennessee and the continued development of a statewide EV charging network. He reinforced TDEC’s commitment to providing a cleaner, safer environment and support for technologies that reduce emissions and improve air quality. Through its electrification efforts, “TDEC seeks to improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and strengthen the resiliency of the transportation sector.”  

“Our vision for Tennessee is to become a leader in the electric transportation space,” remarked Salyers. “Electric vehicles have the potential to make our transportation system both more efficient and more resilient. We are excited to continue working alongside our fantastic partners to achieve these benefits.”

During Commissioner Rolfe’s TNECD update, he emphasized how the agency’s “first job” is to create high-quality jobs for Tennesseans. His second job, explained Rolfe, is to make sure the companies that call Tennessee home “are happy,” such as Volkswagen, Nissan, and others who are focused on EV efforts. 

“We’re going to focus on recruiting companies to Tennessee that are focused on the electric vehicle business because we think it’s here to stay,” said Rolfe. “For Tennessee to remain number one in the southeast, we’re going to be doubling down on those efforts.”

After their presentations, Saylers and Rolfe held a joint Q&A session, where they answered a range of audience questions. For example, when asked what TAEBC can do to support the state’s efforts in propelling electrification efforts further, Saylers emphasized the importance of workforce development programs that promote technical training for jobs that support the state’s advanced energy economy.

Rolfe echoed Sayler’s statements, adding, “a lot of good things are happening in Tennessee, but what we can continue to do is to make it the most inviting, business friendly state to come do business in.”

Volkswagen breaks ground on electric vehicle expansion at Chattanooga plant

Volkswagen recently broke ground on its $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. Construction is projected to take 17 months and hiring will begin at the end of 2020.

Around 200 company and auto industry representatives, state and local officials, plant employees, and members of the media gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony on November 13.

“This is a big, big moment for this company,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, in a prepared statement. “Expanding local production sets the foundation for our sustainable growth in the U.S. Electric vehicles are the future of mobility and Volkswagen will build them for millions of people.”

The factory expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop and another 198,000 square feet for an assembly site for the vehicles’ electric battery packs. Tom du Plessis, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga said the plant is expected to produce over 100,000 electric vehicles (EVs) a year, with the possibly for 200,000, depending on the market.

Volkswagen currently produces its midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga facility. Production for its EVs should begin in early 2022, where the first model will be an all-electric crossover based on the I.D. CROZZ Concept. It will be the first EV produced in the country using Volkswagen’s MEB platform.

This Volkswagen groundbreaking also further reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America, as stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner. Rolfe was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Our goal is to be at the forefront of all electric vehicle manufacturing and the suppliers that will wrap around.”

TennSMART Consortium to accelerate intelligent mobility in Tennessee

A group of 20 public and private partners have launched the TennSMART Consortium to accelerate the development and deployment of intelligent mobility innovations in Tennessee. The specific intelligent mobility focus areas identified by the TennSMART Consortium are 1) connected and automated vehicles, 2) heavy duty trucking and freight efficiency, 3) cybersecurity, 4) electric vehicles, and 5) multimodal commuting.

Founding members include Bridgestone Americas, Cummins Filtration, Inc., DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, FedEx Corporation, GRIDSMART Technologies, Inc., Local Motors, Lyft, Miovision, Nissan North America, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Stantec Consulting Services Inc., Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), Tennessee Tech University, Tennessee Valley Authority, Top Five Inc., University of Memphis, The University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

“Connected and automated vehicles bring new opportunities to help increase safety on roadways across Tennessee,” said TDOT’s Ryan Simpson. “TennSMART brings together industry leaders, research institutions, and government to integrate intelligent mobility advances into long-range plans for the Tennessee transportation system.”

Consortium members will assist with the creation of a technology roadmap and strategic plan for intelligent mobility initiatives in Tennessee. The consortium will address mobility opportunities that individual organizations could not tackle alone.

“Working closely with government and industry is critically important to ensure we are leveraging scientific resources such as high-performance computing and the Department of Energy’s national transportation research facility to solve relevant, complex problems in intelligent mobility,” said ORNL’s Claus Daniel, sustainable transportation program manager. “Our aim is to use cutting-edge research and development to help Tennessee and the nation advance safety and energy savings from increased connectivity.”

TennSMART hosted its inaugural meeting at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy on September 21, 2017. The 2018 TennSMART membership meetings are currently being planned and will be announced soon. Additional members are welcome to join.

Learn more about TennSMART at www.tennsmart.org or send an email to info@tennsmart.org.

TennSMART is a public-private consortium encompassing a growing number of Tennessee and regional organizations working together to develop scientific knowledge and new technologies that could change how America transports people and goods.

State and federal incentives for electric vehicles, hybrids in Tennessee

Plug In America’s website has updated the state and federal incentives available to Tennesseans interested in turning their commutes electric.

The website breaks down the incentives by category as follows:

  • Purchase
  • HOV
  • Charging
  • Licensing
  • Parking
  • Other

All-electric and plug-in hybrid cars purchased in or after 2010 may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $7,500. The credit amount will vary based on the capacity of the battery used to power the vehicle.

In Tennessee, plug-in electric vehicles are eligible for the HOV lane but owners must apply for the Smart Pass program and display the decal in the lower right side of the rear window.

Charging infrastructure is available across the state with the Blink Network identifying 265 charging locations within its system alone. For a more complete list including more EV charger providers, please visit plugshare.com.

For licensing, battery electric vehicles are exempt from emissions testing in the counties that require the testing.

As for parking, some commercial and public buildings offer parking for plug-in electric vehicles customers only.

Tennessee also houses the Nissan Vehicle Assembly Plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Employing more than 8,000 Tennesseans, this plant produces 640,000 vehicles annually with many of those vehicles including the Nissan LEAF. It also has an annual payroll over $290 million, making a substantial community impact to Tennessee.

Nissan has a battery manufacturing plant in Decherd, Tennessee as well. It employs 2,000 Tennesseans creating thousands of batteries for its electric vehicle fleet distributed around the world. The plant has an annual payroll of $98 million, making yet another substantial community impact and creating high-quality jobs for Tennesseans.