Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley is nicknamed the American Serengeti because travelers are greeted with a wide open plain dotted with a variety of wild animals. From bison to wolves and elk to grizzly bears, Lamar Valley visitors are treated to some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the western United States. What visitors may not expect to see is an electric-vehicle charging station.
The historic Lamar Valley Buffalo Ranch, a year-round field campus, is an off-the-grid facility that is also the home of a low-speed battery electric utility vehicle used by National Park Service staffers. The remote campus derives its power from an onsite solar photovoltaic system, and the EV charging station draws its electricity from the solar array. This means that the EV is running entirely on a clean and renewable energy source: the sun.
About 650 miles south of Yellowstone lies Zion National Park, another relatively remote area where an electric-vehicle charging station can be found. Zion is located in southeastern Utah, about 165 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. The Zion Park Headquarters features a solar panel array that provides shade to the employee parking area. The parking lot is equipped with EV charging stations that are used to power current and future Zion electric vehicles.
On the other side of the country lies Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the United States with 8 to 10 million visitors annually. Millions of visitors come in millions of cars and that means more pollution. The popularity of the park makes it a prime location for an electric-vehicle charging station project.
Thanks to the Black Bear Solar Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation and solar energy, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park region is now home to one of the largest concentrations of electric-vehicle charging stations in the nation.
Dubbed the Green Gateway, the region features 24 EV charging stations at strategic locations between major cities in Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park gateway community of Townsend, Tenn. A future expansion will add solar canopies, which will provide clean renewable power to the charging stations.
From a single neighborhood electric vehicle at a historic ranch in Yellowstone National Park to an entire string of charging stations that lead up to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, electric vehicles and a growing green fleet will help preserve the natural beauty of our national park system for generations to come.