Zion National Park Has Gone Electric

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

I would argue that the 6-mile route up Zion Canyon in Zion National Park is the most beautiful place in the world (see Figures 8 and 9). Way back 25 years ago, Zion National Park went “green.” The National Park Service decided that automobile traffic in Zion Canyon had become so bad that it banned automobiles in the canyon during all but a few months in the winter. Park Service replaced the automobiles with buses, not just any buses, but “green” (for the time) propane-fueled mostly tandem buses. (See Figures 2 and 3.)

Figure 1: My wife with my e-bike and our Tesla Model 3 plus bike rack. Top of Tunnel Road, Zion National Park, Utah. January 10, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

Spectacular Zion Canyon — Cars Prohibited 7 Months a Year

The 6-mile road up Zion Canyon is the non plus ultra of Zion National Park, but it can be reached only by shuttle buses from April to November. Cars are prohibited seven months of the year. See two old propane-fueled shuttle buses in Figure 3 taken from the Razor’s Edge on the Angels Landing hike. By the 2020s, the propane-powered buses had become so difficult to maintain that it was decided to replace them with electric buses. By the end of 2024, they will all have been converted to totally green electric buses.

In September 2023, the first ZNP electric buses arrived, and by early 2024, there were ten 60 ft articulated (see Figures 4 and 5) and five 40 ft singles (see Figure 6), with ten more 60 ft articulated buses slated to arrive by June 2024 for a total of 26.

27 charging stations have also been ordered. The 60 ft articulated buses are XDE60 Xcelsiors manufactured by New Flyer Industries Inc. of Winnipeg, Canada. According to a driver, the Zion electric buses were manufactured in the New Flyer US factory in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Figure 2: Propane-fueled bus at Zion Canyon, Zion National Park. November 23, 2020. Photo by Fritz Hasler.
Figure 3: Propane shuttle buses from Angels Landing, Zion National Park. October 19, 2009. Photo by Fritz Hasler.
Figure 4: 60 ft articulated electric bus. Temple of Sinawava, Zion Canyon, Zion National Park. April 2, 2024. Photo by Fritz Hasler.
Figure 5: Boarding 60 ft articulated electric bus at Temple of Sinawava, Zion Canyon, Zion National Park. April 2, 2024. Photo by Fritz Hasler.
Figure 6: New 40 ft electric shuttle bus at Zion National Park. September 2023. ZNP photo.

The New Flyer 40 ft buses have a maximum range of 225 miles, and the 60 ft buses have a maximum range of 135 miles. One trip up and down Zion Canyon is 16 miles. That means the 60 ft buses can make a maximum of 8 trips up and down the canyon on a single charge. That may be enough. How could ZNP keep them running longer? New Flyer offers a pantograph overhead charging system as shown in Figure 7. This means buses can be charging while waiting for passengers to load. In 6 minutes, a bus can get enough charge for another 1.5 hours of operation.

Figure 7: New Flyer 450 kW overhead pantograph electric charging system. New Flyer photo.

To me, Zion National Park is the most beautiful park in the world. Its massive walls of beautiful contrasting red and white stone are unmatched anywhere. I have visited quite a few: Yosemite is a close second for me with its incredibly massive half dome, the 3000 ft vertical face of El Capitan that you can stand next to, and the incomparable sequoias of the Mariposa Grove. But the Yosemite rock formations are dull grey. I’ve driven the Grand Canyon of Hawaii on Kuai and the Grand Canyon of France in Provence. I’ve stood on the South Rim of THE Grand Canyon. To me, nothing compares with Zion. My wife and I have visited Zion three or more times/year over the last 20 years.

Figure 8: With an e-bike. Massive colored walls at Zion National Park, Utah. November 30, 2020. Fritz Hasler photo.

It also has by far the most spectacular short hike in the world: Angels Landing. (Zion Canyon with its massive 3000 ft tall red and white walls is seen in the background of Figure 9.)

Figure 9: Standing where Angels Land. Zion Canyon in the background. Zion National Park, Utah. October 19, 2009. Photo by Chip Jett.

Bikes and E-bikes are a Wonderful Alternative to the Shuttle Buses

The buses are fine if you can get one (see Figure 5). It was easy years ago, but now the Park is so crowded that getting a bus is not easy. Bicycles are a wonderful alternative.

The Canyon walls are so tall and the Canyon is so narrow that you can’t see it well from an enclosed vehicle. On a bike, the whole panorama enfolds before you! Bikes and e-bikes are permitted 12 months a year in Zion Canyon. If you are moderately athletic, you can ride a regular bike. For those of us, like me at 83 years old, who are not so athletic anymore, an e-bike is the perfect solution. During recent winters, my wife and I have spent time only 45 miles away in Saint George, Utah. I have a tray-type Saris bike rack on the back of my Tesla Model 3 (see Figure 12). My wife, who prefers to be my pit crew, drops me off at the base of the canyon.

For most tourists who don’t come with bikes, there are several bike and e-bike rental vendors in the town of Springdale that abuts the park. These have become so popular that the bike racks at Zion are overflowing with bikes and e-bikes (see Figure 10).

Figure 10: Bikes & e-bikes at the Temple of Sinawava, Zion National Park. April 2, 2024. Fritz Hasler photo.

There were many bikers on conventional human-powered bikes on Zion Canyon Road. Many, like me in Figure 8, were on e-bikes, and many were toting their kids along on e-bikes in Zion, like this man with his two kids on an e-bike in Saint George on another day.

Figure 11: E-biker with kids aboard. Ivins, Utah. April 2, 2024. Fritz Hasler photo.
Figure 12: My wife, Zuni, my e-bike, and our Tesla Model 3 with bike rack on Tunnel Road, Zion National Park, Utah. January 10, 2022. Photo by Fritz Hasler.

You can ride right from the bike rental shop up the dedicated bike trail from the Visitors Center for a mile and then join the shuttle buses on the 6-mile Zion Canyon Road. You are obliged to stop for the buses coming behind you, but they aren’t going much faster than me on my e-bike, so I often have time to pull off at a pullout to let them pass.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Latest CleanTechnica.TV Videos

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler, PhD, former leader of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization & Analysis Laboratory (creator of this iconic image), and avid CleanTechnica reader. Also: Research Meteorologist (Emeritus) at NASA GSFC, Adjunct Professor at Viterbo University On-Line Studies, PSIA L2 Certified Alpine Ski Instructor at Brighton Utah Ski School.

Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Arthur Frederick (Fritz) Hasler