JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — BrightRidge will install a direct current fast charger station for electric vehicles (EVs) after being named as one of 12 recipients of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) grants totaling $5.2 million. 

The funds come from the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement Environmental Mitigation Trust, which is designed to boost environmental projects that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. 

TDEC’s Kim Schofinski said BrightRidge is getting up to $300,000, which covers 80% of the utility’s cost for a two-charger station. 

BrightRidge’s Tim Whaley said three sites are being considered for the station, which can charge two vehicles simultaneously at 125 kilowatts (kW) or four vehicles at 62.5 kW. Both levels are far higher than installed home chargers that typically give a vehicle a full charge in 6-8 hours. 

“We are glad we can put these funds to use in ways that serve all motorists with electric vehicles,” said TDEC Commissioner David Salyers said in a news release. “We are rapidly moving toward more electric vehicles on our roads, and this is a way to stay ahead of that demand.”  

BrightRidge will install Chargepoint CPE250 DC Fast Chargers. Whaley said properties are under consideration and a location will be announced once that’s finalized. The properties have to be within five miles of an interstate that’s considered inadequately served by fast charging availability. 

Additional specific location requirements for the grant provided by Whaley included: 

Charging stations must be located at a host site that supports 24 hours / 7 days a week public access at no cost for entry. Basic safety features such as ample lighting, on-site personnel, and other features that make the electric vehicle driver feel secure are also critical considerations. • A fast charging experience is distinguished from a typical retail gas station stop by the length of time required. Some fast charging sessions will require 20 to 30+ minutes to complete. Given the charging time involved, on-site access or “walking distance” access to bathrooms, retail shopping, food and dining options, local attractions, and other amenities is highly desired. 

Dave Hrivnak is a longtime EV owner in Kingsport and said the need for more fast chargers is real and growing, both for Teslas like his and for other automakers’ growing stable of vehicles, which use a different system. 

The TDEC grants are for the non-Tesla type of chargers, which use combined charging system (CCS combo) plugs. Hrivnak said such charging stations regionally are available in Baileyton, Bristol, Va., Knoxville and Asheville, N.C. 

Superchargers add about 250 miles of range to his vehicle in about 40 minutes. 

“That enables EVs to be your only vehicle and to do long-distance charging,” he said. 

Overall, the TDEC funds will allow for 32 new charging units at a total of 13 locations. BrightRidge is the only grant winner from east of Sequatchie Valley, which is north of Chattanooga. But the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) anticipates funding 21 additional projects from Volkswagen funds that will add 56 charging units at 27 other locations across Tennessee. 

“There’s a significant demand increase,” Hrivnak said of both non-Tesla drivers and Teslas. He said he and his wife frequently travel to Mississippi and that early this year, he had his first experience having to wait – albeit for only about five minutes – for a spot at the Knoxville Tesla supercharging station. 

Since then, Tesla’s network has increased from four chargers en route to Mississippi to 11. 

Hrivnak said the addition of CCS stations will meet what he has seen is a growing number of non-Tesla EVs on the road. He’s been to two EV car shows recently and saw a phenomenon he’d never seen before. 

“To my surprise, Teslas were a minority, which I find exciting,” Hrivnak said. “It’s nice to see the other manufacturers getting in it.” 

BrightRidge estimates it will take eight to 12 months to procure and install the chargers. Rates haven’t been finalized, but Whaley said Chargepoint charges a fee to the owner (BrightRidge) and handles all maintenance and upkeep with a guarantee of 98% “uptime” (chargers operational). 

Schofinski said proposed sites must be vetted via an environmental review checklist. BrightRidge will also need to negotiate a site host agreement before the site selection is considered final.