EV charging stations popping up in Cumberland Gap

Published 3:42 pm Monday, October 10, 2022

JORDAN BROOKS

jordan.brooks@middlesboronews.com

Electric cars are one facet of a broader trend in accessible mobility. Recently, and in part thanks to a program at the University of Tennessee, new electric car-charging stations are being introduced to Cumberland Gap. The town is working with the university to utilize these charging stations to promote tourism to the area. EV drivers are more likely to visit a particular location – and spend money there – if there are options for charging their vehicles. Communities offering green amenities then become preferred places to live, visit, and shop.

“Marketing and advertising has for a long time been one of our shortcomings,” said Cumberland Gap Mayor Neal Pucciarelli.

The new charging stations are located behind the Olde Mill Inn Bed and Breakfast and one behind Papa Chum’s Music and Rarities in Cumberland Gap.

During the meeting between Pucciarelli and the students at the University of Tennessee, as well as a few local Cumberland Gap business owners, there was discussion of making a more unified effort to market the town of Cumberland Gap. It came in a unified agreement that Cumberland Gap is so unique because of its beauty, rich history and quaintness, all of which are appealing to tourists.

“For me the ATP class is a practicum in community development.” said Tim Ezzell Ph.D., professor and instructor of the Appalachian Teaching Project at the University of Tennessee, who has taken an interest in Cumberland Gap.

The ATP engages students in posing answers to the question: “How can we build a sustainable future for Appalachian communities?”

Supported by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the ATP is a successful collaboration between the ARC, Appalachian colleges and universities, and local community partners.

As part of the ATP, each participating institution offers at least one for-credit course during the 2022 fall semester in which students address the question: “How do we support community economic development to help build a sustainable future and close the socioeconomic gap between Appalachia and the rest of the nation?”

Following completion of their community-based research project, the ATP provides an annual forum in which students share their work with their peers, with ARC administration and staff, and with invited guests.

It allows students to work on a real problem in a real community. As such, Ezzell treats it like a professional project, meaning the students set the timeline and the budget. Most class meetings are instead more like staff meetings, and students are expected to give updates and provide deliverables.

“Many students have told us the class is one of the most meaningful experiences they have at UT and say the practical experience really helped them when they entered the workplace,” Ezzell said.

“Last year, my class looked at electric vehicle infrastructure along three Appalachian highway corridors. These roads are part of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) which were largely built by ARC.”

Two of these corridors, known as corridors F and S, or U.S. 63 and U.S. 25E, converge in Harrogate and go right by Cumberland Gap.

“As part of last years projects, students and I drove EVs the length of these corridors in Tennessee and we looked for potential charger sites. The class identified Cumberland Gap as a potential site and a place where a charger could have an economic impact,” Ezzell said.

“At the end of the semester, the class decided to use some surplus funds to purchase a level 2 charger for the town. The idea was to help out the community while giving this year’s class to test the economic impact of a charger in a small destination community.”

The mission of these EV chargers is to help attract visitors and spur economic activity, but Ezzell and his class’s mission do not stop there.

“We also noticed that the town needed help in other areas, such as visibility and wayfinding,” he said. “This year’s class is helping in those areas as well.”