The National Park Service has long maintained a commitment to minimizing traffic on their roads and keeping environmentally-vehicles in their fleet. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), roughly 60 percent of the vehicles the Park Service maintains are electric or powered by alternative fuels. About 20 years ago, the Park Service began replacing its gasoline and diesel-powered buses with low-emission propane-powered alternatives. Now, those buses are getting old and park officials are considering upgrading to an even more environmentally-friendly alternative – electric buses.
Recently, the Park Service began working with the NREL to evaluate the possibility of converting 14 propane-powered buses in Utah’s Zion National Park to electric drivetrains. Before the Park Service can commit to the conversions, they need to make sure that the electric buses would be able to meet the demands of traversing the road topography in the Zion National Park. They’ll also have to assess the cost of installing and supporting a charging infrastructure in the park.
Currently, the NREL is working on gathering data from onboard logging devices on the current fleet of buses to determine the power and range that an electric bus will need to ferry tourists around the park in the future. Once they gather the statistical data on the current buses’ performance, they’ll provide the information to companies bidding for the conversion contract.
The NREL has worked with the Parks Service in the past, and was instrumental in the earlier transition to propane-powered buses. Now, they’ve returned to help facilitate the transition to electric buses as well. Zion might be the first National Park to work toward adopting electric buses, but they certainly won’t be the last.