Charged up: Sen. Alexander leases new all-electric Nissan Leaf

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander talks to the press about the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car he has leased from Twin City Nissan to drive to work in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander talks to the press about the Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car he has leased from Twin City Nissan to drive to work in Washington, D.C.

Jerry Hodge, owner of the Twin City Dealerships, congratulates Sen. Lamar Alexander on his purchase of the Leaf, Nissan’s all-electric car.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Jerry Hodge, owner of the Twin City Dealerships, congratulates Sen. Lamar Alexander on his purchase of the Leaf, Nissan’s all-electric car.

Bill Riley, co-owner and general manager of Twin City Nissan, poses with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander as he checks out his new Leaf electric car.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Bill Riley, co-owner and general manager of Twin City Nissan, poses with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander as he checks out his new Leaf electric car.

Sen. Lamar Alexander is plugged-in to changing America’s dependency of foreign oil. Now the senator will be plugging in his new car as the Republican lawmaker signed lease papers on a new all-electric Nissan Leaf on Monday morning at Twin City Nissan on the Airport Motor Mile in Alcoa.

“Today I’m leasing a Nissan Leaf, an all-electric car that travels about 100 miles on one charge,” said Alexander. “This is the best way to avoid paying $4 a gallon for gasoline. The single best way for our country to use less foreign oil is to use all electric cars and trucks. It will also give me the patriotic pleasure of not sending more money overseas to people who want to blow us up.”

The senator said Republicans and Democrats agree that electrifying cars and trucks is the best way to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil. “Our goal should be to electrify half our cars and trucks within 20 years, which could reduce our dependence on oil by about a third, from about 20 million to about 13 million barrels a day,” he said.

Alexander said being less dependent on foreign oil is good for America. “We import two-thirds of the oil we use everyday,” he said.

For two years Alexander has driven a Toyota Prius he had converted to an all electric vehicle. The black Nissan Leaf he leased will be transported for him to Washington, D.C., where the senator says he will use it to commute to work each day. “I’ll park it at my apartment and drive it to the Senate building and the airport,” he said. “I’ll just plug it in every night.”

Leasing the Leaf at his friend Jerry Hodge’s dealership made the deal even more special. “I’m delighted to get it in my hometown,” Alexander said.

Hodge and Twin City general manager/co-owner Bill Riley welcomed the senator to the dealership. “What makes this more exciting is my former school mate and our former governor and current senator is going to get one of our first cars in East Tennessee,” Hodge said.

Alexander’s vehicle is made partly in Japan before final assembly in Los Angeles. “In a year, it will be 100 percent assembled in Smyrna, Tenn., near Nashville,” Hodges said.

Alexander said the Leaf is affordable. “You can lease a car like this for $400 a month for 39 months.

The senator said the Nissan Leaf is a quality vehicle. “It’s easy to drive. There are fewer moving parts, and I like the idea of reducing our use of oil. When we use more electric cars, the price of oil will go down,” he said. “The Nissan Leaf is easy to drive, it’s cheaper to drive, and it will be made in Tennessee. If enough Americans bought electric cars and trucks, that would be the single best way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

The battery in the Leaf powers the vehicle for 100 miles. “Over time, the batteries will get better and will go further than 100 miles,” he said.

Alexander said he won’t take any of the federal incentives for purchasing/leasing an electric vehicle, but he encourages others to do so. “I believe electric cars ought to be in the marketplace,” he said.

The senator said building the Nissan Leaf in Tennessee will have a strong economic impact. “I was governor when Nissan came to Tennessee, and it changed our way of life. Now a third of all manufacturing jobs in Tennessee are related to the automotive industry,” he said. “And Nissan will not only make the car in Tennessee, but the batteries will be made here as well.”

Hodges said that in the next few years there will be charging stations at places like Wal-Marts and Cracker Barrel restaurants as well as at Nissan dealerships. “We have a charging station, and you can do a fast charge that takes less than an hour. It takes about 10 hours to charge on a regular outlet,” he said.

The senator was the lead Republican co-sponsor last session of Congress of S.3495, the “Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010,” which was designed to speed up the introduction of electric cars and trucks throughout the country in an effort to reduce American dependence on foreign sources of oil and help clean the air.

Alexander said that according to a Brookings Institute study, electrifying vehicles in this country could be done without building one new power plant if the vehicles were plugged in at night when the country has huge amounts of unused electricity.

Alexander is currently working on new electric-vehicle legislation to introduce during the 112th Congress.

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