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    New electric charging station to open in Memphis' Shelby Farms

    By Lela Garlington - The Commercial Appeal -

    By the end of the month, another electric vehicle charging station will be in place in Greater Memphis.

    This will be the first West Tennessee solar-powered station, one of three in the state, and is being built at Shelby Farms Park next to the Visitor's Center at 500 N. Pine Lake Drive just off Walnut Grove.

    "The next step is solar panels," said Linda Brashear,the park's strategic operations director.

    So far, The Peabody hotel has four chargers. Contracts have been approved to install six chargers in and around Municipal Square in Germantown. The Family Taekwondo Center in Collierville has two chargers.

    The electrical chargers are similar to gas pumps and will provide a one-hour charge.

    Unlike gasoline or diesel powered engines, EVs — as they are called — run on big batteries and are charged by plugging them into a charger. Chevy makes the Volt, which has both a battery and an almost nine-gallon, gas-powered generator. Nissan makes the Leaf, which is all electric. Nissan's North American plant in Smyrna, Tenn., is scheduled to build 150,000 Leafs this year.

    Other EVs are made by BMW, Ford, Mitsubishi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Volkswagen and Rolls-Royce.

    The Shelby Farms station, which is costing $500,000 to build, will be free for users and is big enough to charge 10 electric vehicles at once. Any solar power generated and not used will be sold to TVA and the park will get a credit on its utility bill.

    The Shelby Farms project is in addition to a $230 million EV project aimed at increasing the adoption of electric vehicles in selected metro areas in Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. As many as public access stations are planned for Shelby County. Of the $230 million, about $155 million is being financed by federal taxpayers.

    The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute are funding the Shelby Farms station. Initially, officials projected the station would open in late June. A combination of soil testing, a change in the initial designs and spring rains delayed the project.

    The Mid-South Chevrolet Dealers Association has agreed to sponsor the charging station. Henry Hutton, president of the association, said during special park events local dealers will bring several Chevy Volts for visitors to test drive.

    Hutton drives a Volt and said he can go about 40 miles on a single charge before it automatically switches to a gas-powered generator, which can go another 325 miles.

    Memphis Gas Light and Water Division officials have said there are about 610 Leafs and Volts in Tennessee. Some drawbacks are limited range (about 40 to 100 miles depending on the model) before recharging and the relatively high cost ($35,000 to $44,000), although there is a $7,500 federal tax credit. In addition, extreme outside temperatures and high driving speeds will reduce the driving range.