Updated with more comments from Cracker Barrel official.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store is joining the electric vehicle revolution. The restaurant chain said on Tuesday it will install electric vehicle chargers at 24 Tennessee locations, including sites in Farragut and Harriman.
The Lebanon, Tenn.-based company will install Blink chargers provided by ECOtality Inc., as part of The EV Project, a national initiative to promote development of an electric vehicle infrastructure.
Cracker Barrel’s chargers will be installed starting next spring at restaurants along “The Tennessee Triangle,” a 425-mile stretch of Interstates 75, 40 and 24 that connects Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga.
San Francisco-based ECOtality won a $230 million grant from the Department of Energy to install the charging systems in five states.
“Cracker Barrel was founded along the interstate highways with the traveler in mind and has always tried to anticipate what our guests might want and need as they stop in for some good country cookin’ and to experience genuine Southern hospitality,” Cracker Barrel Chairman and CEO Michael A. Woodhouse said in a prepared statement
“Becoming a leader in The EV Project continues our tradition of striving to anticipate and meet our guests’ expectations and, at the same time, allows us to participate in a meaningful way in the nation’s explorations of energy independence.”
Twelve of the planned 24 charging station locations have been selected.
Don Karner, president of ECOtality North Americam, called the Cracker Barrel announcement
“an important step towards building the rich EV infrastructure needed to promote the consumer adoption of EVs. Our plan for The EV Project was to create an interconnected network of EV infrastructure that would allow EV drivers to live their lives without limitations.”
Cracker Barrel’s “down home” image may seem an odd fit with the contemporary image associated with The EV Project, but the restaurant chain deserves credit for taking the electric plunge.
Cracker Barrel called to say the it’s not really all that odd. The company is simply getting back to its roots.
“A lot of people are surprised when I tell then that in 1969 when the company started all of the restaurants had gasoline pumps out front,” said Julie Davis, senior director of communications.
Cracker Barrel founder Danny Evins was a oil “jobber” and he started the restaurant/country store chain as a means of selling more gasoline to travelers, Davis said.
The company removed the pumps in the early 1970s during the oil embargo.
As the electric car movement has gained momentum in recent years, it “just sort of made sense” for Cracker Barrel to offer a charging service for its customers who drive electric cars, Davis said.
The company won’t be making any snap judgments about the initiative. “It’s a pilot project and we’re going to do this for a period of time and see how it goes,” she said.
Map: Cracker Barrel electric vehicle charging station locations. (Provided by Cracker Barrel.)
Photo: Blink charging station. (Provided by ECOtality)