Tennessee Transportation Leaders Discuss Statewide Partnerships and Talent Pipeline as Key to State’s Automotive Future
Knoxville, Tenn. – On July 14, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted a virtual statewide automotive innovation roundtable with electric vehicle (EV) and mobility experts from leading industry institutions. research, academic and state government. Cortney Piper, TAEBC Executive Director, moderated the discussion on how Tennessee is on its way to becoming the nation’s #1 electric vehicle supply chain state, and what’s next for the state after achieving that goal.
“The media often describes Tennessee as “the next Detroit” due to massive investments in next-generation automobile manufacturing. But our world-class innovation assets can carry that label into the future as well by establishing the next generation of automotive technology here in Tennessee,” Piper said. “Bringing together key stakeholders and decision makers from across the state in forums such as these to help educate, build partnerships and advance solutions is what TAEBC exists for.”
Experts from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Vanderbilt University, University of Tennessee Knoxville (UT), the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) and University of Memphis participated in the panel and answered a range of questions – from EV adoption, charging infrastructure and grid capacity, to connected or “smart” infrastructure, and innovative technologies, such as lightweight materials and hydrogen fuel cells.
Ryan Stanton, Senior Project Manager, Evolution VE at TVA, discussed TVA’s role in recruiting major OEMs and component manufacturers into the state, as well as the organization’s partnerships with state government agencies in developing a fast-charging network in region and a roadmap for electric vehicles to overcome barriers to consumer adoption.
“The growth of electric vehicles is one of many factors contributing to increased demand on the electric grid over the next two decades,” said Stanton. “TVA is convinced that it can meet this increased demand thanks to its current and additional capacity. To put things into perspective, there are currently around 27,000 electric vehicles on TVA’s power grid. Even if we were to increase that number to 200,000 electric vehicles by 2028 – our target set out in TVA’s Drive Electric TN roadmap – that would still only be around half a percent of TVA’s load today. .
Alexa Voytek, Energy Programs Administrator at TDECwho is also the coordinator of the Clean Cities Middle-West Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition of the Department of Energy (DOE), spoke about the work of TDEC and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) in developing a plan to statewide to prioritize and allocate Tennessee’s portion of funding — approximately $88 million — from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
“The partnerships and collaborations we have here on this panel are key to making Tennessee the epicenter of EV innovation in the United States,” Voytek said.
During his presentation, Deborah Crawford, vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at UT, announced a new statewide consortium to strengthen Tennessee’s mobility innovation ecosystem through partnership-based investments in R&D and workforce development, as well as creating, recruiting and supporting high-growth businesses in the commercial sector.
Participants also heard about Reinhold Mann, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at UTC, on Chattanooga’s transformation from “Gig City” to “Smart City” through data collection technologies that UTC, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), Vanderbilt University and others are deploying at city intersections , which makes them testbeds for connected infrastructures.
Doug Adams, Professor Daniel F. Flowers, Associate Vice Provost, Office of Research at Vanderbilt Universityand Sabya Mishra, Faudree Associate Professor, Director, C-TIER, at the University of Memphisalso discussed collaborations between state and academic institutions to address mobility challenges across the region, such as pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, rural charging infrastructure, and vehicle efficiency through technologies such as artificial intelligence and advanced composites.
To finish, Rich Davies, Sustainable Transportation Program Director and EERE Coordinator at ORNL, spoke about the extensive transportation and electrification R&D taking place at ORNL, the nation’s largest national science and energy laboratory in the Department of Energy system.
To view a recording of TAEBC’s Statewide Automotive Innovation Roundtable, click here.