Intelligent Energy

EV range anxiety? Go to Cracker Barrel

EV range anxiety? Go to Cracker Barrel

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Cracker Barrel and ECOtality team up to charge electric vehicles at 24 roadside restaurants in Tennessee. Will comfort food make Americans more comfy with EVs?

The South has a lot of Cracker Barrels (and even more Waffle Houses). So grits and gravy are almost always within reach along the highways. And if you are in Tennessee, you can soon indulge while your electric car gets its own fill.

Starting in April, 24 of the state's 50 Cracker Barrel restaurants will have electric vehicle charging stations. ECOtality will install 12 of its Blink stations along the 425-mile route between Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga—intriguingly dubbed "the Tennessee Triangle" (below). The program is part of a $230-million EV Project to provide infrastructure and encourage a market for electric cars. Population density and the distance from major interstates and roads as well as from other charging facilities will determine where the remaining 12 EV-enabled Cracker Barrels will be.

In a statement, the restaurant chain's CEO said he didn't expect a lot of traffic at the charging stations, but that the company wanted to offer a bit of future with their old-fashioned cooking.

ECOtality's Blink DC Fast stations take about 30 minutes to charge a car. So there may as well be free biscuits! The slower, Level 2 stations at some restaurants will take longer, giving you more time to rock in chairs, peruse hokey collectibles or sniff pie-scented candles at the "Old Country Store."

A Blink Network smartphone application informs drivers/diners of their charging progress. Just in case you've neglected to download the Cracker Barrel locator app, it also tells you where the closest charging station is.

The larger pilot project, with about $115 million of DOE funding, aims to deploy 8,300 EVs (about 5,700 Nissan Leafs and 2,600 Chevy Volts). To juice them up, Ecotality will place more than 15,000 charging stations in 6 states.

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Image: Flickr_jshyun

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure