How to Get Charged in Zion – Literally!

“I am pleased to announce that your project is approved to proceed under the agreement between the National Park Service and the Department of Energy Clean Cities Program.”


Just a couple weeks into my new job as Environmental Protection Assistant with Zion’s Sustainability program, my first assignment was a big one. The Department of Energy had approved a grant to install ten electric vehicle charging stations in the park and purchase three electric fleet vehicles. I scanned the approval letter for guidance on how to move forward. My supervisor, Alex, and I soon realized that we would be one of the first parks to implement such a program…and we had a lot of research ahead of us. Other parks would look to us as an example and we wanted to make sure we got it right.

I called several cities that had charging infrastructure installed. My hope of emulating their systems was quickly lost as I realized that many municipalities require a membership card or smartphone for public charging. With over three million visitors from all over the world, we couldn’t consider any models that required membership and the remoteness and features of our canyon squashed any option of using smartphones for payment. A recent memo from Washington stated that we must collect payment to recover our costs. While that might be an easy task in a city, I wake up daily to sunlight streaking down red rock walls that tower over me by a couple thousand feet- the same walls that make a simple phone call to my family in Ohio a challenging task. When I curse the fact that I can’t get Internet to my home, my brother (who owns an electric car in Cincinnati) tells me I should be thankful. On many occasions through this project, I called him… “How in the world can I expect to plant one of these confounded charging devices into this wilderness void of a reliable cell signal and expect it to do its thing just as it would in Cincinnati, Ohio?”

The answer: Zion Natural History Association! We located a charging station that offered a payment system with a simple keypad. No Internet connection needed. No cell phone. No membership. Punch in the correct code and the station can tell when and how long to provide a charge to the vehicle. ZNHA offered to sell these codes at the bookstore and provide an instructional card to the visitor. We designed the stations so that a visitor could purchase a code at the ZNHA desk in Zion Canyon or Kolob Canyons and be able to use that same code at either location. The code is good for three days, which allows extended charging opportunities for an (hopefully!) extended park visit.

Thank you, ZNHA, for once again teaming up with the NPS to provide new and exciting opportunities to park visitors. And thank YOU, park visitors, for teaming up with us to ensure cleaner, greener, more sustainable visits with an impact that extends beyond our park boundaries!

By Juli Rohrbach, Zion National Park Environmental Sustainability Coordinator

NPS Photo – Charging station at Kolob Canyons