Developing an EV Demonstration Testbed in the Upper Cumberland Region of Tennessee, an Economy Distressed Rural Region

Sponsor/Project Period : U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 10/01/2019-12/31/2022

PI: Prof. Pingen Chen, Tennessee Technological University

Co-PIs: Prof. Stephen Canfield, Prof. Olorunfemi Ojo, and Prof. Indranil Bhattacharya, Tennessee Technological University

Background: Rural areas cover 97% of U.S. land area but contain less than 20% of the population, about 60 million people (2016 U.S. Census report). Transportation plays a critical role in the social and economy development in rural areas since it provides access to food, healthcare, educational opportunities, and employment, and increases rural residents’ ability to access recreation, entertainment, and other activities that promote community engagement. Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), extended range electric vehicles (EREVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs), are promising solutions for rural mobility due to the lower fuel cost and lower maintenance cost.

Economically distressed Upper Cumberland Region

Project objective: This project will create a proof-of-concept demonstration testbed for EVs and charging infrastructures in UC region in Tennessee, which is a representative rural and economically distressed region, to provide the experience, research, demonstration and educational opportunities needed to address EV adoption issues. Comprehensive data will be collected and analyzed to report the operation cost, issues and performance of EV to help potential fleet owners and the public at large make informed decisions in EV adoption for rural areas before making significant financial investment.

Broad Project Impacts: 1) accelerating EV adoption and promoting EV awareness in rural vehicle fleets and communities; 2) reducing transportation cost, fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas and harmful emissions, and improving fuel diversity and public health in rural areas; 3) enabling smooth and long-distance intercity transportation of goods and people with rural EV charging infrastructure; 4) helping Tennessee’s corridor development initiatives and potentially boosting the economic development in the rural areas; 5) facilitating collaborations between universities, automotive OEM and suppliers, DOE designated clean city coalition, and national lab for EV research and development, outreach, and education.

Project Team: Tennessee Technological University (lead); The University of Texas at Austin; Nissan North America; Phoenix Motorcars; East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition; Seven States Power Corporation; ChargePoint; Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Lyft.

Project Vehicles: In this project, the project team will deploy a small fleet of electric vehicles including three Nissan Leaf electric vehicles (with 40 kWh and 62 kWh battery packs), one plug-in hybrid pickup truck (F250 + XL Fleet hybrid conversion kit), and one all-electric shuttle bus.

Nissan Leaf SV (149 miles) and Nissan Leaf SV Plus (215 miles)
Nissan Leaf SL Plus (215 miles)
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Pickup Truck (F250 + XL Fleet hybrid technology)

EV Charging Station Network: In this project, we have developed an EV charging station network in rural Upper Cumberland region which includes one DC fast charging station (62.5 kW) and eight public level-2 dual-port charging stations to support EV operation in rural Upper Cumberland region.

Two-week EV Test-Drive Program: In this project, the project team has created a two-week EV test-drive program to allow residents in the Upper Cumberland region to test-drive EVs at no cost (except charging and fueling cost). Interested participants can click on the following link to sign up for the test-drive opportunities.

Link for EV Test-drive Program:

Contact Information: If you are interested in the project, please reach out to the principal investigator, Prof. Pingen Chen, via or (931) 372 – 3310.

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