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Caney Fork prepares for more EVs on road
Ben Newman with EV.jpg
Ben Newman of Caney Fork Electric is test driving this all-electric Nissan Leaf for two weeks to better understand its charging needs and its power consumption. He says Caney Fork is doing its homework to prepare for more EVs on the road.

The ride is so quiet, it’s like you’re in a golf cart.

It doesn’t take a drop of gas, yet it can hum down the highway at 70 mph with a range of about 230 miles.

It’s the Nissan Leaf all-electric car and Caney Fork Electric incoming general manager Ben Newman has been test driving one for the past 10 days as part of an Upper Cumberland study. The goal is to generate data on infrastructure which will be needed as EVs become a larger portion of vehicles on the road.

“Caney Fork is going to be supplying the electricity to power these EVs so we have to figure out how this is going to work into our grid,” said Newman. “The infrastructure is not ready yet but we’re doing our homework to find out what we’re going to need.”

Projections have EVs becoming a much larger percentage of our auto sales in the near future. Last year, the Big Three automakers in Detroit said they believe EVs can represent 40% to 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030.

EVadoption has lower projections, estimating EV sales will reach 29.5% of all new vehicle sales by 2030.

Newman said someone who is just going to drive around McMinnville can probably make it the entire work week on a single charge.

“It’s great for getting around town,” said Newman. “Most people if they’re just going to work and going to the grocery store, they can make it a week on one charge. They’ll probably need to charge it again for the weekend. If you’re going to Nashville or Chattanooga, you can get there and back. Where you’ll have to do a little more planning is with longer trips where it needs to be charged on the road. I’d want to schedule a stop like that where I could get a bite to eat or check my emails and make a few phone calls.”

The really fast chargers TVA wants to install along interstates can deliver a full charge in about an hour. The chargers most EV owners would have at home aren’t as fast, but time wouldn’t be as much of an issue if you’re plugging in the vehicle for the night.

On the instrument panel, the EV’s battery life is displayed much like it is on your cellphone. Newman’s car was 97% charged Monday afternoon.

He says the Level 2 charger which comes with the car can plug into a 220 outlet, which is a standard dryer outlet. He said if several people in the same neighborhood get EVs then Caney Fork may need to install a different transformer to handle the increased load.

As for the drive, Newman enjoys the instant acceleration that comes with an EV and the quiet ride. When the car is idling at a traffic light, you can’t tell it’s on.

“With an internal combustion engine there’s a little delay when you hit the gas,” said Newman. “With an EV, it’s instantaneous. It goes as soon as you step on the pedal. It’s also different in that it does much better from an economy standpoint when you’re driving around town. It doesn’t do as well on the interstate. An internal combustion engine is exactly the opposite. It’s better on highways.”