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Throughout the weekend of September 28 - 29, 2013, events across the US and other countries will celebrate the third annual National Plug In Day.

The event is tailored to heighten awareness of plug-in vehicles and demonstrate the benefits of all-electric and hybrid-electric transportation.

Several cities and organizations in East Tennessee have planned events.

  • East Tennessee Clean Fuels is hosting an event today from 4-7 p.m. on Market Street and parts of Market Square. Nissan LEAFs and Chevy Volts will be available and organizers hope to have other EVs as well. See photos from the group's 2012 event on their flickr.
  • The University of Tennessee will host an event 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday in front of Gate 21 at Neyland Stadium. Several UT electric vehicles including a Chevy Volt, an NEV GEM and several E-bikes that are part of the campus' E-Bike Sharing Program will be on display. Information about the university's EcoCAR2 program, which seeks to build a plug-in hybrid fueled with E85, will be available.
  • The Townsend Visitor's Center will showcase alternative fuel vehicles during the Townsend Fall Festival 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.
  • Chattanooga's Plug In Day will be 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the Chattanooga Market. The event will move at 1 p.m. to offer test ridges and drives to the public.

A two-day conference on electric vehicle policy, market issues and infrastructure will be at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy on the University of Tennessee campus Thursday and Friday of this week.

Electrifying the Vehicle Market in the Southeast will explore the potential of all electric drive vehicles (battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid) to help address problems with national energy security, climate change, and local air pollution.

Sales of electric vehicles were at record highs in 2012, but still below expectation for many automakers. This workshop will bring together industry, policy makers, researchers, stakeholders and practitioners to share knowledge and experience, and explore strategies that could advance the market for electric drive vehicles in the US in general and in the Southeastern region, in particular.

During the conference a free display of electric vehicles will be available and open to the public. Cars are on loan from the Tennessee Valley Authority and GM.

Discussions include:

Prospective benefits and costs of electric vehicles, both public and private
Assessment of the current market and supply and demand challenges
Effectiveness of incentives, infrastructure investments and public information
Dialogue on future policy initiatives

The keynote speaker is David Green, a senior fellow with the Howard Baker Center and Oak Ridge National Lab. He will present "Achieving Sustainable Transportation by 2050: The National Research Council's Transitions to Alternative Vehicles and Fuels."

Other experts include representatives of Nissan and Ford and state and local governments already implementing zero emission vehicle plans.

The conference is sponsored by FedEx, Nissan, the U.S Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee College of Engineering, and the University of Tennessee's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy.

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The 2013 Nissan LEAF has been named the Best Green Car of 2013 by Kelley Blue Book. Now in its third model year, Nissan LEAF is the world's best-selling, pure electric vehicle with nearly 60,000 sold worldwide.

The LEAF is manufactured in Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn. plant and batteries for the vehicle are produced at an adjacent facility.

"The 2013 Nissan LEAF marks a turning point in the electric vehicle movement ... We're seeing buyers diversify beyond early adopters," said Erik Gottfried, Nissan director of electric vehicle sales and marketing.

The car was recently redesigned for the new model year. Upgrades include quicker charging and an improved driving rage, the company said. The LEAF has an EPA range of 75 miles at an average 90 percent charge or up to 83 miles on a full charge.

Vehicles from Tesla and Ford, and LEAF challengers Chevrolet Volt, and Toyota Prius are also featured on the list.

See the full list of the year's best green cars according to the Blue Book at

Photo credit: PRNewsFoto/Nissan North America
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English: 2011 Chevrolet Volt under the hood. R...

A 2011 Chevrolet Volt under the hood. Right side: the power inverter on top of the electric drive unit (electric motor) used for traction. Left side: the 1.4-liter gasoline-powered engine used as generator to provide power to the electric motor or to engage mechanically to assist propulsion when the battery is depleted. Taken at the 2011 Washington Auto Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once they've finished powering electric vehicles for hundreds of thousands of miles, it may not be the end of the road for automotive batteries, which researchers believe can provide continued benefits for consumers, automakers and the environment.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are studying five used Chevrolet Volt batteries to determine the feasibility of a community energy storage system that would put electricity onto the grid. Over the next year, researchers from ORNL, General Motors and the ABB Group will conduct studies and compile data using a first-of-its-kind test platform.

"With about one million lithium-ion batteries per year coming available from various automakers for the secondary market beginning in 2020, we see vast potential to supplement power for homes and businesses," said Dr. Imre Gyuk, manager of the Energy Storage Research Program in DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability in a press release. "Since these batteries could still have up to 80 percent of their capacity, they present a great opportunity for use in stationary storage devices before sending them to be recycled."

Last year in San Francisco, a GM/ABB energy storage system provided 100 percent of the electricity needed to power a temporary structure for several hours. A similar application could one day power a group of homes or small commercial buildings during a power outage or help make up for gaps in solar, wind or other renewable power generation.

The ORNL platform provides 25 kilowatts of power and 50 kilowatt-hours of energy that could potentially provide cost-effective backup energy, said Michael Starke of ORNL's Energy and Transportation Science Division.
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2011 Chevrolet Volt - NRMA Drivers seat

 As hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, like the Chevy Volt seen here, become regular features on the road, so too do accidents involving these cars.                                                         

As hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles become regular features on the road, so too do accidents involving these cars.

The East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition and the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium have partnered to offer first responders safety training for dealing with the differences in alternative fuel vehicles -- EVs, hybrids and fuels like natural gas or propane, among others -- versus traditional gas-powered vehicles after an accident.

The training will cover:
 * Electric drive vehicles including EVs and hybrids
 *Gaseous fuel vehicles including natural gas and propane
 *A hands-on safety training portion with these vehicles

Training will be 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday, February 26 at the Knoxville Fire Training Academy at 1301 Prosser Road.

Tickets are $60 and may be purchased through February 19 at

Questions? Call ET Clean Fuels at 865-974-3625.

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Get ready to be impressed and inspired. This week the Greater Knoxville Business Journal released its annual list of the top 40 professionals under age 40 in East Tennessee.  Several members of this group are making strides in climate change, sustainability, energy efficiency and the local food movement.

Check out their profiles after the jump.

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Nissan's new Smyrna site is the largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the U.S. 
Photo by Nissan

The first lithium-ion batteries made in Nissan's new Smyrna assembly plant are ready to power the 2013 LEAF.

While the new batteries were produced a few weeks ago, they've only now completed the required aging process enabling them to receive their first charge. 

The new battery plant is located adjacent to Nissan's existing vehicle assembly plant, which has been retooled to accommodate production of the Nissan LEAF. 

"The opening of this facility in Tennessee supports our goal of making zero-emissions mobility a reality through American jobs and American manufacturing," said Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co. 

Production of the Nissan LEAF and the battery has added more than 300 jobs at the site. Nissan officials say operations of both the battery and car building plants could expand to 1,000 additional jobs in the future. The battery facility is capable of expanding to produce modules for up to 200,000 batteries annually. 

The plant was supported by a Department of Energy loan of up to $1.4 billion, and construction of the battery site and alterations of the vehicle manufacturing facility may eventually reach a $1.7 billion total investment.

By 2015, Nissan aims to have 85 percent of all Nissan and Infiniti products that are sold in the United States produced in North America.

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Black Bear Solar Institute, a Townsend-based nonprofit organization, has installed 24 vehicle charging stations in Blount County, reports Ed Marcum in the daily Knoxville News Sentinel.

Lisa Stewart, executive director of the organization, said it has installed 18 stations at businesses or organizations in Townsend and six in Maryville, and plans to install two at Knoxville's McGhee Tyson Airport. 

The group plans to install 12 more as part of its involvement in the U.S. Department of Energy's EV Project.

There is no cost to businesses for the installation, but Black Bear Solar will receive revenue from a planned hourly charging fee.

The organization also hopes to get businesses to sponsor solar electric arrays -- it wants to install up to 270 to sell power to TVA.

Photo: Electric vehicle charging stations at Trillium Cove Shopping Village / Ed Marcum, News Sentinel
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According to a Department of Energy report, has the second highest number of electric vehicle charging stations in Tennessee, behind Nashville, but ahead of Memphis and Chattanooga.

Between March and December 2011, Knoxville drivers charged up more than 7,100 times -- twice as many as in Chattanooga.

And 28 more charging stations are expected in Knoxville by June, including 10 solar charging stations in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Gerald Witt in a recent article.

Knoxville businesses such as Cracker Barrel , Three Rivers Market, the Crowne Plaza hotel and others already have stations available for customers.

The growth is fueled by a $99.8 million grant from DOE to ECOtality to install charging sites. Knoxville is one of four cities in Tennessee and one of 18 in the country to benefit from the money.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The state of Tennessee is adding a second car model to its electric vehicle rebate program, which so far has drawn fewer participants than expected.

WSMV-TV reported Wednesday that the state will soon begin offering $2,500 rebates to owners of the Chevrolet Volt, an electric hybrid car.

The rebate program in Tennessee is now only open to people who buy the all-electric Nissan LEAF.

Car owners who chose to participate in the program must agree to allow data about how they use and charge their vehicles to be collected for a government-funded study. The information is being gathered by the California-based ECOtality. The company received a $99 million stimulus grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The state added $2.5 million in matching grant money for the rebates.

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