EV Car Club: Tennessee Co-op’s Idea Will Serve as National Pilot Project

Electric vehicles are popular with employees of Middle Tennessee Electric, who will be showing off their cars at events sponsored by the co-op’s new EV car club. (Photo By: Adam Elrod/MTE)

Middle Tennessee Electric is launching an electric vehicle car club for its members that will serve as a national pilot project for hundreds of other Touchstone Energy® cooperatives.

The club will give members the chance to meet with EV enthusiasts and drivers to share information and experiences, participate in club events and receive perks to be designed by the co-op.

Middle Tennessee Electric will kick off its club with special events this fall. After learning from the co-op’s experience, Touchstone Energy will create a national EV car club, most likely in the first quarter of next year, and provide resources to help its other 700-plus member co-ops form local chapters.

“It’s a great concept,” said Mary Ann Cristiano, Touchstone Energy’s senior director of consumer marketing. “It’s a wonderful way for co-ops to create community with members by bringing people who are early EV adopters and enthusiasts together to educate people about the benefits of electric vehicles. Members have the chance to learn from their neighbors and their friends, and it reinforces the co-op’s role as a trusted source of energy information.”

Brandon Wagoner, of Middle Tennessee Electric’s strategy execution and analytics team, said the idea for an EV car club originated with his father-in-law, who once belonged to a club for owners of classic British cars.

“People who own EVs are just as passionate about their cars as classic car owners are,” he said.

Co-op leaders discussed it internally and then reached out to Touchstone Energy for help with creating a national EV car club brand and a unique logo.

The Murfreesboro-based co-op is in the process of finalizing its participation in three fall events in three different counties to encourage members to join the club. In September, the co-op plans to staff a booth at a Rotary Club fish fry and car show. In October, it will participate in an Oktoberfest celebration. And in November, it will attend a “cars and coffee” event in Williamson County, where the headquarters for Nissan North America is located. Nissan makes the all-electric LEAF, and MTE plans to bring one of the cars to the event, Wagoner said. Co-op employees who drive EVs will be invited to show off their vehicles on each occasion.

The co-op, which serves more than 320,000 members in a four-county area just south and east of Nashville, has about 4,000 members who drive EVs and expects that number to jump in the next few years as more and more auto manufacturers produce electric cars and pickup trucks, Wagoner said.

“We’ve got the right demographics for it,” he said. “We’re obviously very supportive of EVs, and they’re coming whether we do anything or not. The more we can do to inform our members, the better experience it will be for everybody.”

Wagoner said he is both excited and nervous about his co-op serving as the pilot project.

“It puts a lot of accountability on us,” he said. “If some other co-op calls us in a year, I’m sure our first response is going to be, ‘Here’s what we learned not to do.’ Everyone can learn something from what we learn the hard way. But it’s also a great opportunity for us to build a good relationship with our members and create a long-lasting bond.”

Co-ops interested in learning more about how to create a car club chapter should contact Mary Ann Cristiano at MaryAnn.Cristiano@nreca.coop.

Erin Kelly is a staff writer for NRECA.