Rural Reimagined: Building an EV Ecosystem and Green Economy for Transforming Lives in Economically Distressed Appalachia

Sponsor/Project Period: U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 08/01/2022-10/31/2025

Principal Investigator at Tennessee Tech: Prof. Pingen Chen, Tennessee Technological University

Project Funding: $8,026,086 (DOE: $4,012,930; Project Team: $4,013,156.)

Background and Grand Challenges

The Appalachian region has long provided natural resources for the nation’s prosperity. However, as of 2021, Appalachia has more than 182 counties designated as economically distressed or at-risk, the majority of which are in five states including KY, WV, OH, TN, and VA . With the rise of the clean energy economy around electric vehicles (EVs) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the rural and low-income communities in central Appalachia have struggled the most in the transition, due in part to a lack of EV infrastructure, low awareness, and limited-to-no access to EVs and clean energy jobs in EV sector.

Project objective

To overcome the abovementioned barriers, the project objective is to build the underpinnings of a comprehensive EV ecosystem and green economy in the most economically distressed Appalachian region to transform the lives of rural and low-income communities, through strong regional collaboration. This project aims to provide clean and affordable mobility options to the underserved communities by developing needed charging infrastructure, and adopting and demonstrating various cost-effective EVs in diverse applications. In addition, by partnering with a broad set of EV stakeholders, this project aims to create outreach, training and education opportunities to residents in rural and low-income Appalachian communities to kick-start electric vehicle adoption and clean-energy job opportunities where it is needed most.

Broad Project Impacts: 

1) helping rural residents, fleet owners, and government agencies jump-start their EV adoption; 2) supporting smooth transition from fossil fuel-based economy to clean energy economy and create new job opportunities in EV sector; 3) reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and improving fuel diversity, environmental quality and public health in rural areas; 4) improving mobility equity for these underserved and economically disadvantaged communities; and 5) facilitating collaborative opportunities between universities, automotive EV OEMs, EV charging station suppliers, and other stakeholders for training technicians and engineers to serve the rapidly growing EV industry and clean energy economy.

Proposed Plug-in Electric Vehicles and EV Charging Stations

To demonstrate and evaluate the applications of PEVs over a diverse range of activities serving central Appalachia.  A fleet of 30 PEVs will be demonstrated in this project including 21 affordable Nissan Leaf EVs, 1 plug-in hybrid SUV, 3 all electric SUVs (like Mustang Mach-E), 4 all electric pickup trucks (like F150 Lightning), and 1 all electric transit van.

Nissan Leaf S Plus

Four types of EV charging stations will be deployed in this project including:

ChargePoint Dual-port Commercial level-2 charging station: the supply voltage and current for each port of the level-2 charging station is 240 VAC and 30 A and the charging power is 7.2kW. In this project, 50 ChargePoint CT4000 dual-port units will be installed (~10 units per state).

ChargePoint DC fast charging station: the supply voltage and current of the DCFC are 480V AC (3-phase) and 80 A at 60 Hz. The maximum charging power is 62.5 kW. In this project, 15 ChargePoint CPE250 units will be installed (~3 units per state).

ChargePoint CPF50:  CPF50 is a commercial EV charging station and is a smart solution for any assigned, shared or fleet parking situation, which aligns with most apartments, condominiums and workplaces. CPF50 stations deliver charging speeds up to 12 kilowatts (kW). In this project, 50 ChargePoint CPF50 units will be installed (~10 units per state).

JuiceBox. The level-2 EV charging station is Enel X JuiceBox EV Charging Station- 240V/32A  with a charging power up to 7.2kW. The charging station will be WiFi/Ethernet connected. 100 JuiceBox units in total will be installed in residential applications in OH, TN, and KY.

Project Team: The project team includes 60 partners

Interested in the project? Please contact Prof. Pingen Chen via or 931-372-3310.