Governor Phil Bredesen on Wednesday joined representatives of Nissan, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority and others by tooling around in an all-electric vehicle while celebrating Earth Day 2009.
Bredesen ‘test drove’ an all-electric vehicle that Nissan shipped from Japan to help highlight the combined potential of solar and electric vehicle technologies in Tennessee. Nissan is expected to introduce electric vehicles for U.S. commercial and government fleets in late 2010 and for mass market globally by 20012.
The governor previously proposed that state government help develop a network of public charging stations for electric vehicles in partnership with local governments and private partners.
As part of the state's expanding commitment to clean energy technology, Bredesen also used the occasion of Earth Day to point out the crossover potential between electric vehicles and another part of the clean-tech sector that's expanding in Tennessee — solar energy. Specifically, he invited Nissan, ORNL and TVA to join the state in exploring research opportunities to develop solar-powered charging stations on a limited basis in areas including Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville.
"Given Tennessee's growing interest in both solar energy and electric vehicles, it seems natural that these technologies could complement each other," Bredesen said. "We can and should be exploring opportunities that highlight the Volunteer State's leadership in both areas."
Nissan's move toward electric vehicles is occurring at the same time Tennessee is raising its solar profile. Major suppliers, including Hemlock Semiconductor and Wacker Chemie AG, have announced plans to add thousands of jobs in Tennessee as the solar industry expands. To build on the economic activity, Bredesen recently proposed a solar research institute at ORNL and the University of Tennessee to make the state a leader in basic solar science.
State officials plan to coordinate with Nissan, ORNL, TVA and other partners to explore federal support for solar- and electric vehicle-related research alongside any commitment the state might make. Nationally, Tennessee could be well-positioned for future federal investments given President Obama's agenda for a cleaner energy future.
"Pioneering practical ideas that bring together automotive innovation and solar science is a logical play for Tennessee at a time when the nation is watching us on both fronts," Bredesen said.