Knoxville, Tennessee is home to the popular downtown Market Square area with plenty of local businesses and restaurants. Nearby, in the Market Square public parking garage, electric vehicle (EV) drivers can find two new ClipperCreek units with four total plugs.

Unlike the previous charging stations in those spots, the city is now offering complimentary charging in this garage. 

“The service is essentially the same as anyone should expect, if not better because we’ve got better reliability with these units that are in the ground right now,” said Brian Blackmon, Knoxville Sustainability Director.

Non-Network Chargers

The ClipperCreek chargers are non-network chargers, meaning they are not connected to any kind of network provider. Non-network chargers require no annual fees to the city and typically have lower cost maintenance if needed.

“We do have reputation for being durable, and durable is important because when you get there, the thing’s got to work,” Don Francis, ClipperCreek Representative for the Southeast Area, said. “We make a very robust, very simple unit. It’s not a lot of complexity to it. Plug it in, and it charges the car.”

According to Francis, another benefit of non-network chargers are their reliability in situations where communication between the unit and the network may not be available. These chargers require no communication or authentication to use, making them a quick, convenient choice for EV drivers.

“The car doesn’t know a difference between the chargers,” Blackmon said.

Free Charging

With these updated charging stations in place, the city is able to offer a free charging option for anyone headed to downtown Knoxville.

“I love the fact that they’re offering complimentary charging,” Eric Cardwell, president of the Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association, said. “I mean, it’s only a few bucks here or there for each car, but they show people that, ‘Hey, you know, Knoxville is willing to help drive the adoption of electric vehicles and make it practical for residents who want to come downtown and do shopping for all the local businesses and things.’ That dollar or two for charging, they are going to get back 10 fold.”

As more people begin to adopt EVs, charging stations are becoming more of a necessary amenity for both public and private organizations.

“If you don’t have a charger, I immediately discount you. I would say, ‘Nah, I don’t think I’ll stay there,’” Francis said. “So, [charging stations are] becoming one of the selection criteria, and the hotels are beginning to treat it as an amenity, like their weight room.”

Future EV Adoption

Ideally, local Knoxville residents will take notice of these chargers and consider trying an EV.

“If you walk and you see [the chargers] every day, then the next time you need to replace your car, it’s in your head that, ‘Hey, I saw those chargers, you know, I could be fueling up for free while I’m working,” Cardwell said. 

The updated charging stations are open and available for use in the parking garage now. While there is a small fee to park in the garage itself, the charging is free to use and the garage does not charge a fee after 6 p.m. and on weekends.

“I think the big thing that I want to emphasize is that you know, we’re making the decision to offer this as a complimentary service,” Blackmon said. “Our focus right now is ensuring that people have some stability in being able to rely on some of these public charging locations.”

This is just one of the many efforts across the state of Tennessee to drive EV adoption among its residents.

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