Q&A: Jeff Siddons, organizer for the East Tennessee Electric Vehicle Show

AmeriCorps member Siddons works as the East Tennessee Clean Fuels project coordinator, and helped organize the East Tennessee Electric Vehicle Show to be held Friday, Oct. 14 in Market Square from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The show is free and is a pre-celebration of National Plug In Day, which is hosted by Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association and nationally recognized on Sunday, Oct. 16.

What will be the most interesting thing at the EV show?

We plan to have multiple Nissan Leafs as well as Chevy Volts. There will also be various locally converted vehicles. One is a Jeep, which was converted by some members of the Knoxville Electric Vehicle Association, and we might also have a charging station there.

Are you saying amateurs can convert cars to electric?

Not amateurs precisely. The members of KEVA help each other with their combined knowledge.

Does someone already own the other cars you'll show?

The majority of the Leafs are owned by Knoxville residents who volunteered them for the show, while the Volts are being volunteered by organizations.

So it's easier to buy a Leaf in this area?

The Leaf will be more accessible to people in Tennessee, because Smyrna, Tenn. will soon be one of the areas manufacturing it. There are also incentives on Leafs right now, including a grant through Ecotality's EV program; if you're eligible, and you purchase a Leaf, they'll buy you free Level 2 charging equipment for your home. The state of Tennessee also has a $2,500 rebate for EV project participants. Regardless of whether you qualify for that program, a federal incentive is up to $7,500 in tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle, and a charging equipment tax credit of 30 percent.

Is the at-home charging equipment expensive?

It runs between $750 and $2,000 for the unit, and then $300-$600 for labor costs—but that's all approximate of course.

Are there any charging stations around here?

One for sure is downtown at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the parking garage, and there are others.

How far does a Leaf get on one charge?

The range is increasing every year, and right now it's a 75-100 mile range between charges.

Still more for a commuter type driver then?

Yeah, at this point in time, it's more realistic for people who plan to drive it around the city, not for a cross-state road trip or anything.

What will surprise people at the show?

The Leaf is 100 percent electric, so no tail pipe! Also the engine looks quite a bit different, and it's definitely cleaner.

How'd you get involved in all this?

I am an AmeriCorps member working through the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee. I'm from Oklahoma, actually, and applied last spring.

Do you even own a car?

I own a Honda Fit. It's not an electric vehicle, but I think I'm on my way. I also ride my bike most places, if that counts for anything.

For more information, visit ETCleanFuels.org or KEVA's site, knoxev.org.