Zion to receive pair of electric shuttles with hopes of replacing aging fleet

ST. GEORGE— With the Zion National Park shuttles nearing 20 years old, the park is getting ready to receive its first two battery-electric buses as a test for replacing the entire fleet. 

The buses, designed by Proterra, will begin running on the Springdale shuttle route in August, park spokesperson Aly Baltrus said. 

The current park shuttles run on propane. Park officials said over time they hope to replace the entire fleet – which consisted of 39 power units and 23 trailers in 2017 – with electric buses, using these first shuttles as a test to make sure that electric-powered buses will be feasible. 

Jack Burns, chief of commercial services and partnerships at Zion National Park, told St. George News the buses will be 29 feet long and a little less than 8 feet wide and will have the capacity to carry 42 occupants. 

Zion officials hope that by replacing the shuttles with battery-electric buses will both implement clean and quiet transportation, as well as save the park money. 

An electric bus in Zion National Park, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the National Park Service, St. George News

With the park’s shuttles 10 years past their life expectancy, maintaining the aging vehicles has been increasing in cost and difficulty. The propane engines in the shuttles are no longer being manufactured, and the time that shuttles spend out of service for repairs is increasing. 

Replacing the fleet with electric buses is estimated to reduce the cost of operating and maintaining the shuttles by $300,000 annually by reducing the cost of fuel and energy consumption and repair costs, according to the National Park Service

“The true expected cost savings with electric buses versus propane is in maintenance repair,” Burns said. “Both propane and electric cost is dependent on market availability and current electric peak demand rates.” 

The total cost for both buses is approximately $1.3 million. The Utah Clean Cities Coalition is contributing $250,000 towards the project, and the remainder of the cost is being funded through the National Park Service Category III Alternative Transportation Program. 

Before the park can replace the entire fleet with electric buses, which would be done in phases over time, the project must be accepted by the National Park Service Federal Lands Transportation Program, where it is currently pending approval. 

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

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