KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The city of Knoxville is adding two dozen electric vehicle charging stations.
The units are located outside of several area businesses, but many are rarely used.
City officials said there are more than 350 electric vehicle owners in the area, and that more and more people are using the charging stations as the vehicles gain popularity.
There are several locations throughout Knoxville where EV owners can charge their cars for free.
Charging stations are located at Caswell Park, Victor Ashe Park, Sequoyah Park, West Hills Park, Ijams Nature Center, Civic Coliseum Garage, Market Square Garage, State Street Garage and the Jackson Avenue parking lot.
"It helps when you're trying to get around town," said EV owner Mary-Joyce Harris. "The more of them there are, the more freedom you've got to go places."
Thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the city's charging stations don't use any taxpayer dollars.
City officials said demand for the charging stations is rising.
"The locations for the stations were chosen very specifically because we wanted to highlight our recreation opportunities at parks, and also downtown, to continue to draw folks to the downtown area, which is growing," said Susanna Sutherland from the city's Office of Sustainability.
Two of the first charging stations in Knoxville aren't city-owned. They're at the Crowne Plaza downtown, and up until recently weren't seeing much use.
"We have two stations here and we're averaging about six charges a week, which again, doesn't seem like that many," said Crowne Plaza General Manager Ken Knight. "But when you consider at the beginning of the year we were averaging zero, it's a pretty dramatic improvement in a pretty short amount of time."
The city hopes that with both publicly and privately-owned charging stations, more people will come to Knoxville.
"When a city does something progressive, it draws businesses and people to that area, because they feel they're a part of something bigger and in a place that can say 'yes' instead of just 'no' all the time," Sutherland added.
Some of the city-owned charging stations, like the ones at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum and in the Market Square Parking Garage run on solar power, so the energy to run the charging stations is free. The other stations run off of the city's power grid.
According to Knight, the cost for fully charging a vehicle is only $1.50, but the stations at the hotel are free, just like their city-run counterparts.
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