JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Northeast Tennessee’s first non-Tesla fast charger for electric vehicles is on track to go in a downtown Johnson City parking lot just off of Interstate 26’s Main Street exit (Exit 23).

BrightRidge, which qualified last July for a $300,000 grant to install a “Level 3” charger, has arranged a lease with Johnson City to put the charger at the northeast corner of the Cherry Street parking lot. The space is at the corner of North Roan Street and State of Franklin Road, and if approved Thursday by Johnson City Commissioners, BrightRidge’s lease will be $1 a year.

Currently, a lease agreement is on the Johnson City Commission’s consent agenda for its Thursday meeting.

A rendering showing the proposed BrightRidge EV charging station at Roan Street (top) and State of Franklin Road (left). The red line extends from a power pole to the generator. (City of Johnson City)

Level 3 chargers are an essential part of EV infrastructure, as they are used by people who are traveling long distances from home. They can often add 80% charge, depending on the vehicle, in less than 45 minutes.

The two ChargePoint CPE 250 chargers can charge a total of two cars each at up to 125 kilowatts, or four each at 62.5 kilowatts. Level 2 chargers, like the ones EV owners have at home, deliver between 6 and 19 kilowatts and can take about six or seven hours to deliver 80% charge.

Tesla vehicles have different chargers than other electric vehicles. The nearest non-Tesla Level 3 charger is at Exit 7 in Bristol, Virginia and the Johnson City location is considered within a “corridor gap” for fast-charging availability.

Johnson City’s J.T. McSpadden, who handled discussions on the city’s side, said those began in late fall.

“They did not come to us with the location other than they wanted it to be downtown,” he said.

After reviewing grant requirements about location and access, and considering the need to be near access to “phase 3” power, the Cherry Street site rose to the top. McSpadden said with the city continuing to try and enhance economic development downtown, the charging site is expected to provide plenty of benefits in exchange for some resurfacing costs and giving up the equivalent of a few parking spaces.

“It’s a nice shopping area to people that don’t know the city and they can come out of their car and start to walk around and get to know the city,” he said.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced in July 2022 that BrightRidge was among 12 recipients of grants for chargers. Funds came from the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust, which is designed to boost environmental projects that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. 

BrightRidge finalized a grant contract in November and has 15 months from that date to complete the project. BrightRidge spokesman Tim Whaley said last July the utility expects procurement and installation to take 8 to 12 months.

BrightRidge declined comment on the location until after Thursday’s meeting.