Electric buses could soon enter service shuttling visitors around a U.S. national park.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is evaluating the possibility of converting a fleet of 14 propane-powered buses at Utah's Zion National Park to electric power.

High maintenance costs for the aging bus fleet have led the National Park Service to consider the switch.

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For now, the NREL will merely monitor the drive-cycle characteristics of the existing buses before making recommendations regarding the conversion process, according to Green Car Congress (via Charged EVs).

The propane buses have been in service since 2000, when the National Park Service instituted a shuttle operation to reduce congestion on Zion's main roads.

Now the buses are due for replacement, and officials are considering a conversion from propane to electric power.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The NREL will gather operational data on the buses using onboard logging devices, focusing on elements such as dispatching patterns and road topography.

That will determine the performance requirements for electric-powertrain conversions and supporting charging infrastructure.

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Data will be analyzed using Drive-Cycle Rapid Investigation, Visualization, and Evaluation (DRIVE) and Future Automotive Systems Technology Simulator (FASTSim) software tools.

That analysis will produce operational statistics that can be provided to companies in the bidding process for the bus-conversion contract.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park

The NREL evaluation program is being conducted in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities National Park Initiative.

An extension of the agency's Clean Cities program, it focuses on reducing emissions in national parks.

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It previously facilitated the replacement of gasoline and diesel vehicles in parks with low- and zero-emission alternatives, including propane-powered trucks and vans, electric cars, and plug-in hybrids.

Nearly 60 percent of vehicles owned by the National Park Service are electric or alternative fuel, according to the NREL.


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