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Electric cars can get a charge at Gray fossil site

Robert Houk • Updated Jul 31, 2019 at 9:56 AM

BrightRidge’s first electric fleet vehicle got a charge Tuesday during a ribbon-cutting for the public utility’s first electric fueling station located at the Hands On! Discovery Center at East Tennessee State University’s Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site.

Jeff Dykes, BrightRidge’s chief executive officer, said four other electric vehicle charging stations are to come within the next 90 days. He said the charging stations represent an “exciting time” for his utility and for economic development in the region.

He said it was important for BrightRidge to “get out ahead” on electric vehicle technology. Dykes said his utility has already purchased two electric cars for its fleet — a Chevrolet Bolt and a Nissan Leaf —  and plans to add more “where it makes business sense.”

The charging stations will offer 240-volt Level 2 chargers, with charging capacity sufficient to provide a minimum of 25 miles or more of range per hour of charging, depending on the vehicle type and its onboard charging equipment.

Dykes said there will be no charge for users at the charging station in Gray. BrightRidge is also putting a second free charging station at its corporate office in Boones Creek in October.

Pay-by-the-session charging stations will also be installed in downtown Johnson City at King Commons and the Farmer’s Market in September. One is also coming to the Jonesborough Visitors Center and Museum in August.

B.J. King, who chairs BrightRidge’s board, said she and other directors were “all charged up” about the utility’s new venture. Kings, who also serves as ETSU’s chief financial officer, said the partnership involving BrightRidge, the university and Hands On! at the Gray charging station demonstrates the “diversity and ingenuity” of the region.

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock, who is also a BrightRidge board member, agreed. She said placing charging stations in downtown Johnson City simply reaffirms the city’s place as a leader in green and renewable energy. She repurposed the city’s new motto: “Go all out,” to “Charge all out,” for the dedication ceremony.

“I see this kickoff as a wave of charging stations to come around the region,” Brock said.

Andy Marquart, chief executive officer of Hands On!, said he has already seen keen interest in the electric charging station at the fossil site.

“They have been here a couple of weeks, and they are used daily,” Marquart said of the electric charging nozzles.

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