National parks install charging stations for electric vehicles

Electric vehicle at San Antonio Missions National Historic Park, Texas


Zion and Golden Gate are among parks leading the charge

Wildlands are changing rapidly due to climate change. Those of us who love them are challenged to visit them while leaving as minimal of a carbon footprint as possible. 

While electric vehicles have the lowest impact, one of their downsides has long been the limited distance they can travel before needing a recharge. This prevents widespread travel - a real drawback for those of us who get our kicks recreating in wide open spaces. 

But now there's good news for drivers of electric vehicles. More than 292 million people visit National Parks every year, and the National Parks Service (NPS) wants to help make these low-emission trips. So they've been installing public charging stations at destinations across the country.

They have already completed projects at California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Texas' San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and Utah's Zion National Park started with two stations.

More parks to come

Nine more parks are in the works as part of the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative. Along with the increased use of alternative fuel vehicles by the parks, these changes are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 109 metric tons annually.

One of these parks is Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina. With more than 9 million visitors annually, Great Smoky is not only one of America's most visited national parks, its region is also now home to one of the largest concentrations of electric-vehicle charging stations in the nation. 

Other places that can expect to see public charging stations soon include:

  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland
  • Mississippi River National River and Recreation Area, Minnesota
  • National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, D.C.
  • Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico
  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Recreation Area, Michigan

The initiative also intends to educate visitors on the benefits of fuel-efficient driving. Some of the suggestions in their Green Rides Toolkit are:

  • reducing idling of vehicles
  • use alternative fuels
  • drive more efficient vehicles
  • use mass transit, biking, and walking when possible

Public charging stations installed via previous efforts can also be found at:

Photo: ranger filling electric vehicle at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. credit: NPS.

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