Proterra Catalyst electric bus similar to model that will begin shuttle services to Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Goes Electric with Proterra E-Bus
By Bill Moore
Visitorship to many of America's top national parks is putting pressure on the environment, as well as traffic. One of the nation's premier parks, Yosemite, is tackling these twin problems by introducing electric bus service into and out of the park. The bus of choice? Proterra
US-based electric transit vehicle manufacturer, Proterra has been selling their 35ft and 40ft electric buses for the past seven years. The primary customer, of course, is transit agencies looking to provide not only cleaner rides for their customers and communities, but also cheaper, at least in terms of the overall operating costs compared to their diesel and compressed natural gas competition.
Their stylish designs and range capabilities - based on the size of the battery pack, which can be as large as 660kWh - and fast charging option have now attracted the attention of the US National Park Service. The first park to order a Proterra e-bus is one of the crown jewels of the system: Yosemite. Established in 1890, it covers more than 1,100 square miles, incorporating famed "El Capitan", Half Dome, the Firefall, and Yosemite Valley. In 2007 it attracted 3.5 million visitors. By 2016, this had increased to more than 5 million, making it one of America's top-ranked national parks, but also seriously stressing its infrastructure.
Unlike other leading national parks like the Statue of Liberty (3.5M ), the Vietnam War Memorial ( 5.2M), and the Lincoln Memorial (7.9M) - the latter two within easy walking distance on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. and the Metro -- the only way to reach Yosemite is by motor vehicle and 90% arrive by car. 32% of those visitors arrive in the months of July and August. Assuming an average of 3 people per car, that's nearly 6500 vehicles per day! The road winding down into the valley is narrow and twisting. In 1978, my young family and I nearly didn't return when the brakes on our 21 foot camping trailer didn't work, overheating the brakes on our Jeep Wagoneer. I pulled off the road to let they cool down, after which I turned around and drove into a nearby camping ground. There I repaired the trailer brakes and left the next day. We never made it into the valley.
Come sometime in 2019, visitors will be able to leave their personal cars behind and ride a Proterra electric bus into the park. That will give the Park Service and its vendor time to work out the details of the schedule and stops along the way. Carrying up to 72 passengers at a time, it'll help remove some 24 cars off the road per trip. Presumably, if this first e-bus works as anticipated, others will be added at Yosemite and other national parks where traffic has become a serious distraction to enjoying their beauty.
In this 20-minute podcast interview, Proterra's Chief Commercial Officer Matt Horton share his insights into his company, their technology and the arrangement with the NPS.
Originally published: 23 Dec 2017
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