Tennessee’s influence in electric-car sector expanding after Denso announcement

(Credit: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Tennessee will be meeting the future demand for electric vehicles, after Denso Corp. announced the company would spend $1 billion expanding its Maryville, Tennessee facility and hire 1,000 workers.

It comes as major automakers prepare to design new fleets of electric cars in response to the popularity of the Tesla electric car brand and the push for battery-powered vehicles overseas.

Denso’s investment would include safety components and systems for purely electric cars powered only by batteries as well as for hybrid vehicles like Toyota’s Prius that back up a gasoline engine with an electric motor.

The expansion would be the largest ramp up related to electric vehicles in Tennessee since Nissan borrowed $1.6 billion from the U.S. government’s green-car initiative in 2009. The company used the money to help cover the cost of preparing the assembly plant at Smyrna in Middle Tennessee for production of the Leaf electric car.

Read the full story here. 

ORNL Innovation Crossroads program opens second round of energy entrepreneurial fellowships

Entrepreneurs are invited to apply for the second round of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program.

Up to five innovators will receive a two-year post-doctoral entrepreneurial fellowship that includes vouchers worth up to $350,000 for collaborative research and development at ORNL, startup business guidance and mentoring, and health and travel benefits. Entrepreneurs selected during the merit-based process are expected to begin the program by May 2018.

Innovation Crossroads is one of three U.S. Department of Energy Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs designed to embed top technical post-doctoral talent within national labs as research fellows with goal of subsequently launching businesses. The program focuses on early-stage research and development along with entrepreneurial guidance to enable innovators to inject new ideas into the national labs and transform their novel ideas into U.S.-based companies.

“We are very excited to be recruiting our second cohort. We believe that as knowledge of the program spreads, we’re going to see an increasing number of relevant startup companies working in the energy and advanced manufacturing space,” said Beth Conerty, Project Manager for Entrepreneurship in ORNL’s Office of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development. “Even though we’ll only be selecting five, it’s great to get connected with these companies and see all the progress that is being made. Our first cohort has been so enjoyable to work with, and we’re looking forward to adding to that group and getting to meet more innovative scientists.”

Innovation Crossroads fellows have access to world-class research facilities and scientific expertise at ORNL, including the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the National Transportation Research Center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, and the Spallation Neutron Source.

Through regional partnerships with entrepreneurial and business accelerator organizations, fellows also receive assistance with developing business strategies, conducting market research, introductions to potential commercial partners, and finding additional sources of funding.

The first cohort of Innovation Crossroads fellows began their terms this summer. These first-time entrepreneurs include Anna Douglas (SkyNano), who is developing a process that uses carbon dioxide as a feedstock to produce low-cost carbon nanotubes; Matthew Ellis and Samuel Shaner (Yellowstone Energy), who are jointly developing an advanced nuclear reactor design; and Mitchell Ishmael (Active Energy Systems), who is developing a system for low level heat recovery and energy storage.

Click here for the original ORNL announcement. 

TAEBC Lunch & Learn features Jetta Wong with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council held an engaging lunch & learn at UBS The Siler-Rhea Group’s office location in Downtown Knoxville.

The event included Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator serving as keynote speaker.

Jetta has over 14 years of experience developing programs and policies that support energy and environment technologies. Prior to joining LACI, Jetta Wong established the Office of Technology Transitions for the United States Department of Energy and served as its first Director. In that capacity, she assisted the private sector, state and local governments, universities, laboratories and other stakeholders and engaged with the Department on the commercialization of new technology.

She spoke about the status of cleantech, several cleantech accomplishments within the Department of Energy, and the organization she works for the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.

“Cleantech is here to stay, and it’s not just because we want it to but the numbers are there,” said Wong.

She talked about how wind and solar are now competitive in several parts of the country, and that the audience should continue to think about how cleantech can continue to be competitive.

“Since 2008 distributed PV, utility-scale PV, wind power, and batteries have decreased in cost, and that’s what we need to see because that’s what innovation is all about,” said Wong.

She stressed the importance of economics and again that the cleantech sector is here to stay. She also talked about how the U.S. is in competition with China when it comes to cleantech. It’s been recently announced that China will invest $360 billion by 2020 in renewable energy, averaging $120 billion a year.

“We also need to be thinking about how we can bring private capital back into clean energy,” said Wong.

For more on Jetta’s presentation, visit TAEBC’s Facebook page.

Several ‘National Drive Electric Week’ events scheduled in Tennessee

National Drive Electric Week is happening between September 9-17 this year, and Tennessee has a long list of events celebrating the alternative energy vehicles.

National Drive Electric Week is a nationwide celebration to heighten awareness of today’s widespread availability of plug-in vehicles and highlights the benefits of all-electric and plug-in hybrid-electric cars, trucks, motorcycles, and more.

Started in 2011 as National Plug In Day with the simple idea to hold simultaneous events across the country on the same day, by popular demand the organizations has expanded to an entire week of events and changed the name to emphasize: drive electric. The organization expects National Drive Electric Week 2017 will again grow to include more events in more cities with more drivers reaching out to share the many advantages of driving electric with the public.

Each event is led by local plug-in drivers and advocates and typically includes some combination of EV parades, ride-and-drives, electric tailgate parties, press conferences, award ceremonies, informational booths, and more. Plug In AmericaSierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association serve as the national team providing support to the events throughout the country.

In Tennessee specifically, the following events have been planned:

  • In Memphis on Saturday, September 9 at Shelby Farms park in and around the EV charging stations under the solar panels, owners of electric cars will be on hand to show their cars and share their electric car ownership experiences. This will be happening from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • In Knoxville on Saturday, September 16 at the Whole Foods Market off Papermill, visitors can talk to long-time owners of electric vehicles and learn more about the different electric vehicles available today. Attendees can also learn about public electric vehicle charging stations at Whole Foods Market locations. You’re invited to come by and drive yourself in an all-electric Nissan LEAF from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • In Chattanooga on Station Street next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Drive Electric – Chattanooga has been invited to join this “Second Saturdays on Station Street” event. Several EV owners will be in attendance to display their vehicles and to answer questions from visitors. Several displays will also be visible to educate visitors on the many advantages to driving electric. This event is happening Saturday, September 9 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Energy Mentor Network Spotlight: Ben Jordan

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is continuing its series of feature stories highlighting the mentors behind the Energy Mentor Network program offering industry specific expertise.

The Energy Mentor Network‘s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors. This gives Tennessee yet another advantage in grabbing its more than fair share of the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market.

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

This week TAEBC highlights Ben Jordan, Manufacturing Manager for Centrus Energy Corporation’s Technology and Manufacturing Center. He has 20 years of experience with manufacturing, engineering, operations management, research and design, and entrepreneurship.

He is responsible for $50M+ of precision manufacturing equipment including precision CNC machine tools as well as the associated inspection and certification equipment. He is also responsible for business development in this role.

He joined Centrus from Fleetguard (Cummins Subsidiary) where he served as the Manufacturing Supervisor. In this capacity, he was responsible for the financial performance, production targets, and quality performance of two high change-over assembly lines.

He earned a Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He has obtained certification as a Project Management Professional and is a Derivative Classifier of Centrifuge information.

TAEBC is continuing to accept mentors for the Energy Mentor Program. If you are interested in this opportunity, please visit the “For Mentors” section of the Energy Mentor Network portion of TAEBC’s website.