Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a green and efficient option for both NPS fleet vehicles and for visitors traveling to and within national parks. Because EV use reduces air pollution associated with conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles, they can help preserve the long-term quality of parks’ natural resources. Keep reading to learn more about EVs and charging at national parks, as well as how electric vehicles help the NPS achieve its goals set in the Green Parks Plan.
Electric Vehicle (EV) parked in at EV charger station.
EV charging station at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey. Photo: David Rose, BMW of North America.

NPS

Background
According to a study by the Institute for Electric Innovation and the Edison Electric Institute, there will be an estimated 18.7 million electric vehicles on the roads in the United States by 2030. EVs offer significant advantages over conventional vehicles, including:
  • Greater energy efficiency
  • Little or no tailpipe emissions
  • Lower greenhouse gas emissions
  • Capacity to use greener sources of electricity (e.g., solar, wind) to charge
  • EV charging station at Thomas Edison National Historical Park in New Jersey. Photo: David Rose, BMW of North America. Obtained from NPS.

    Lower operating cost—charging an EV is approximately 50% cheaper than the cost to fuel a conventional vehicle with gasoline (for up-to-date data, view the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) eGallon tool)
  • Reduced operating noise levels due to EVs not using an internal combustion engine.
While all EVs can run on electricity alone via a rechargeable battery that powers the electric motor, they primarily fall into two categories:
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): Can travel on either electricity or gasoline
  • Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): Uses a battery only to store electric energy and power the motor
To support EV drivers visiting national parks and among NPS staff, the NPS has taken steps to provide charging infrastructure for park visitors, NPS employees’ personal vehicles, and NPS fleet vehicles.
Charging station
Representatives from the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and East Tennessee Clean Fuels at a charging station at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Photo: Jonathan Overly, NREL. Obtained from NREL image gallery, image #37373.

Electric Vehicle Charging in National Parks
The NPS supports a variety of alternate transportation options for NPS employees and visitors, such as walking, biking, and public transportation. Nevertheless, for many national parks—particularly those in remote locations—private vehicles are often the most convenient form of travel. To encourage visitors to drive EVs to national parks and reduce local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, the NPS has installed EV charging stations at parks across the United States.

Find a Charging Station
Between 2016 and 2019, the NPS—in partnership with BMW—installed nearly 100 EV charging installations within national parks, en route, and in NPS workplace and fleet locations. The map below depicts some of the publicly available EV charging installations in or en route to parks. Please note, however, that this is not a complete list of available charging stations. Navigate to a specific park’s web page for details about EV charging station availability and other transportation information.
Electric Vehicles at Zion charging station
Electric Vehicles charging at Zion National Park.

Photo: Alex Barajas / Zion National Park. Obtained from NREL Image Gallery, image #37375.

Types of Charging Equipment
There are two types of EV charging stations—networked and non-networked. Visitors driving EVs should note that networked charging stations will have payment processing capabilities, while non-networked charging stations require payment through other methods (e.g., keypad payment, concessioner). At some parks, EV charging stations use a keypad payment method for which codes can be purchased at the park visitor center.

In addition, EV charging equipment is available in different levels, depending upon the rate at which the battery is charged and the type of power (i.e., AC or DC). The levels of charging equipment most common to NPS charging stations are:
  • Level 1 (L1)
    • Typically used in:
      • Workplace charging infrastructure for NPS employees’ personal EVs
      • Charging infrastructure for NPS fleet vehicles
    • Level 2 (L2)
      • Typically used in:
        • Public charging infrastructure available to park visitors
        • Workplace charging infrastructure for NPS employees’ personal EVs
        • Charging infrastructure for NPS fleet vehicles
      • DC Fast
        • Typically used in:
          • Public charging infrastructure available to park visitors
History and Challenges

Since 2010, the NPS has worked to offer electric vehicle charging as an amenity for park visitors. These efforts have been achieved through partnerships with entities such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, BMW, and the California Energy Commission. The chart below illustrates the increase in public and private (i.e., workplace and fleet) charging availability in National Parks between 2012 and 2019.
Installing EV charging stations has also meant addressing the challenges inherent to the wide variety of locations, terrains, natural resources, and historical considerations found at U.S. National Parks. Some of these challenges and the subsequent lessons learned are summarized below.

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