Republican Senator Buys Nissan LEAF: 'Patriotic Not Sending Money to People Trying to Blow Us Up'

By · March 09, 2011

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) takes delivery of his Nissan LEAF.

If there's one thing about plug-in cars that makes them great conversation pieces, it's that no matter what your concerns or political stripes there is something beneficial in them for you. From the environment, to supporting a local economy, to decreasing dependence on foreign oil, to national security, electric cars have the potential to kill many birds with one stone.

Case in point: although Washington D.C. is currently overrun with partisan bickering at risk of bringing our government to a standstill, electric cars still enjoy what seems to be broad multipartisan support. Many people wrongly assume that EVs are mostly a Democratic endeavor. While it's true that almost all Dems support EVs to some extent or another, there are many Republicans who also do—and some that are quite outspoken advocates of them.

Take Senator Lamar Alexander as an example. The Tennessee Republican has just put his money where his mouth is and bought himself a brand new Nissan LEAF. He even paid full price and didn't take advantage of state and federal incentives saying it wouldn't be proper to accept tax credits he helped to push through. Alexander is leasing the vehicle and also bucked the trend by choosing to not install a Level 2 charging station—opting to charge from a standard wall outlet instead.

Sure you could brush this off and say Alexander is simply trying to please Nissan and the Tennessee Valley Authority—two of the biggest employers and business drivers in the state of Tennessee—but then you'd be ignoring the fact that for the last two years he has been driving a converted Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid. Even in the face of a changing of the guard and the rise of the Tea Party Republican contingent trying to get rid of anything viewed as government manipulation of the free market, Alexander has remained steadfast in his support for electric cars.

As part of the Democrat-Republican EV duo that also includes Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alexander has consistently supported many policies to speed the adoption of electric cars, including a piece of legislation last year that would have introduced the concept of "early deployment communities" that would receive millions of extra dollars of federal funding to speed up charging station deployment and make electric cars even more affordable. Alexander and Merkley have once again agreed to try and get the same piece of legislation passed this year.

Why is Alexander so outspoken? In his case it comes down to energy dependence and national security. "Plugging in my new LEAF will give me the patriotic pleasure of not sending money overseas to people who are trying to blow us up,” he said after taking delivery of the vehicle. "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—and the best way to avoid $4-a-gallon gas."

While every LEAF sold is currently made in Japan, starting in 2012 all LEAFs and LEAF batteries sold in the U.S. will be made in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Given that Alexander is a longstanding Senator with significant influence, the fact the he's on the side of EVs lends some credence to the notion that electric car legislation will be some of the only bipartisan supported legislation to pass congress without too much of a fight this year.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.