Eric Cardwell

Meet Eric Cardwell, an “Emissions Swapper” and a University of Tennessee alumnus with a master’s degree in electrical engineering who loves his personal electric vehicle – a Chevrolet Volt. He took the leap from owning an ICE to an EV because he hates gasoline and oil and has since become president of the Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association (KEVA).

Q: What can you share with us about your EV experience? 

A: I received a Bronze Award from the Federal Government in 2016, for my work on installing 12 electric vehicle charging spots on the USPTO campus. We helped streamline changes to the existing rules that prevented employees from charging at federal workplaces. We also showed the costs saving benefits of using level 1 where possible for employees that are working shifts of 8 or more hours.  

Eric Cardwell

Q: What kind of EV do you drive?

A: I drive a used, white 2013 Chevy Volt, 2 years off-lease when I bought it in August 2014. 

Q: Should people lease an EV versus buying one? Why?

A: I would lease an EV because in 2 years there will probably be another EV I would enjoy owning. Plus, the technology advances so quickly that you will probably get better battery technology, which means faster charge times and longer ranges.

Q: Why did you buy this particular EV? 

A: At the time there was not a lot of charging infrastructure anywhere in East Tennessee, so I opted for the backup gasoline generator in the Chevy Volt. It was pretty darn cheap on the used market. Chevy Volts have a reputation for being a quality built vehicle.

Q: What’s unique about your EV?

A: One of the fastest 0-30 accelerations on the market means it’s a blast to drive! 

Q: What is the most frequent, or outrageous comment you’ve been asked about owning an EV? 

A: “Well aren’t you just swapping your emissions for that of a coal plant.” I always respond that outside of using personal solar or buying green credits, that yes, swapping for a single source of emissions that can easily be cleaned and, in most accounts, is cleaner than tailpipe emissions, I do like the swap! Imagine the ability to clean the output of one single coal plant smokestack and it is the same as wrangling 100,000 tailpipes together and being able to clean them at once! I will take that trade every day! (Less than 25% of our power comes from coal now!)

Q: Did you have a unique experience with your EV that you can share?

Eric’s Chevrolet Volt

A: I got my Volt and in doing so I let my neighbor take it for a drive. That convinced my neighbor that they are practical, here and now, so they went out and bought one. I also let two of my friends from college drive it, and they both went out and bought one!

Q: What was the biggest and most exciting surprise about owning an EV? 

A: The simplicity of it all! Just plug it in and forget it!

Q: What is your biggest challenge of owning an EV? 

A: Plugging it in when living in a dense urban environment, where no one owns a parking spot. 

Q: What advice would you offer about adding charging infrastructure? 

A: There needs to be available, secure parking for EV’s that offer dedicated charging in urban downtown environments where housing is loft-style condos.  

Q: Do you own a specialty vehicle license plate? Whether you own one or not, what letters and/or number combination would you’d like to see? 

A: Yes, my plate says USA PWR  because I wanted to convey that all electricity is made in the USA! We don’t import electricity!  

Q: Are you a member of an EV club and/or hang out with other EV enthusiasts? If so, can you provide the EV club’s name? 

A: I am currently president of the Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association (KEVA) but I would also consider myself a long time member of the Electric Vehicle Association of Washington, DC as I helped that group out for seven years.

Eric plugging his Chevrolet Volt at WholeFoods charging station
6730 Paper Mill Drive, Knoxville, TN

Q: Do you attend EV events in your area? If so, what are some of your favorite experiences? What experiences would you like to see happening? 

A: I have a big passion for organizing electric vehicle presence at the larger city auto shows through KEVA like the Knoxville Auto Show. KEVA also puts on a rather large ride and drive every year in September for National Drive Electric Week. KEVA is trying to do more events throughout the year such as EV fun drives up through the Great Smokey Mountains and Cars and Coffee events. KEVA is currently planning a summer campground meetup for EV’s to promote the fact that RV/campgrounds typically have 220v outlets that can be used to charge an EV.

Q: Does your workplace offer charging? Would you take advantage of workplace charging if it was offered?

A: I currently work from home so I would still say that my “workplace” does have charging! However, my workplace in Alexandria, VA does offer workplace charging. We have 12 level-1 spots that you pay monthly to access. 

Q: Have you ever made a long road trip in your EV? If so, what was it like? What was your favorite thing about making the trip in an EV?  

A: I moved from Knoxville to Denver and took my entire life in my Chevy Volt. The Volt has a surprising amount of space when the seats are folded flat. The Volt being a series hybrid was easily able to run on horrible gas for the interstate sections for 350 miles a fillup, and then I would save my battery for any stop and go traffic.  The Volt also made the drive up Pikes Peak and twice up Mount Evans with no problems! 

Q: If the sky was the limit and you could design an EV, what would be your top five must-have features? What would you name it? What color would you pick? 


1. A mixed battery setup that has a balanced blend of ultra caps and storage batteries, and a new solid-state battery with a massive increase in energy density

(The ultra caps can “buffer” energy to help deliver big punches of power for quick acceleration. They can also more efficiently absorb charges really quickly from regen as well as normal charging.)

2. Heated Seats and steering wheel 

3. 350KW fast charging, which probably means an 800-volt system

4. Full Self-driving (I can dream right?) 

5. Swivel seats, so at least the passenger seat can swivel 180 degrees to face the back seats for easy conversation with driver and backseat passengers

Q: Would you buy another EV? If so, which one? 

A: Every vehicle I own from here on out must have a plug! I am interested in the Tesla Model 3, the new Cadillac EV, and really interested in the VW ID BUZZ, the bus EV. I am not so sure I should be forgiving VW for their diesel scandal so quickly, but that bus looks so cool! The engineer in me questions the coefficient of drag on that bus but man is it cool! (Side note: The EV-1 had a drag coefficient of 0.19 which is one of the lowest of all time! This means the EV-1’s electric motors didn’t have to work as hard to slice through the air. Compared to an old school VW Bus, which has a coefficient of 0.42, it is pretty much like pushing through molasses! Let’s hope they improve that a bit on the new one.)

KEVA is always interested in new members who are advocates for EVs! If you are interested and live in the Knoxville area, let Eric know!

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