Yosemite Becomes First National Park To Add Proterra Electric Buses

JAN 4 2018 BY MARK KANE 26

Proterra Catalyst electric bus – not only for the city

The Yosemite National Park becomes the first national park in U.S. to purchase all-electric in buses for permanent duty in its shuttle fleet.

Yosemite National Park (source: Wikipedia)

The electric buses not only harmoniously connect with nature, but also their performance is well suited to the twisty roads.

Proterra Catalyst will operate year-round, transporting up to 1,480 visitors per day through the park’s Yosemite Valley.

Delivery of the ordered buses is exepcted in late 2018.

“Situated in California’s iconic Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite represents the first U.S. National Park to permanently add zero-emission buses to its shuttle fleet, offering its visitors a modern, ecologically-friendly transportation option.

Last year, the National Park Service (NPS) recorded 331 million visits.  This August alone, the parks attracted 40 million people nationwide with 609,676 visitors at Yosemite. With millions of visitors coming to Yosemite each year from around the world, Yosemite has relied heavily on their shuttle program to encourage park visitors to park once and use a bus to circulate among lodges, waterfalls and trailheads.

With more than five million visitors each year, Yosemite has seen its free shuttle service travel annually 436,000 miles with 3.8 million boardings.  In 2001, the park began replacing its diesel bus fleet with diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. Yosemite is now taking the next steps toward a state-of-the-art clean transportation system with the adoption of Proterra zero-emission, battery-electric buses. The new Catalyst buses are expected annually to reduce 887,000 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions and save approximately $150,500 on maintenance and operating costs. They will begin service in late 2018 and will operate year-round, transporting up to 1,480 visitors per day through the park’s Yosemite Valley.”

Chip Jenkins, acting superintendent, Yosemite National Park said:

“Our mission has always been to preserve our nation’s natural and cultural heritage for future generations, and Proterra’s zero-emission vehicle technology will be indispensable as we continue to work toward this goal. Since its establishment in 1890, airborne pollutants have steadily degraded Yosemite’s resources. Deploying Proterra’s battery-electric buses will help with this ongoing challenge and will greatly improve local air quality.”

Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra said:

“Yosemite was the first wildland protected in the United States, by President Abraham Lincoln, over 150 years ago. Of Yosemite, John Muir once said, ‘It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter,’. The Proterra team is especially proud to directly contribute to the preservation of Yosemite National Park. We believe that upholding the environmental integrity of our nation’s most precious resources is of paramount importance, and we are honored to partner with the National Park Service to provide clean, quiet transportation to the millions of visitors who love to visit our National Parks.”

Categories: Bus

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

26 Comments on "Yosemite Becomes First National Park To Add Proterra Electric Buses"

newest oldest most voted

Hopefully they also switch out their ranger and facilities trucks to EV models (when we finally get some).

Is this real or just tokenism window dressing?

Notice they didn’t say how many they are buying or even gave a percentage of the whole fleet. (That might allow us to discover its just token public relations, appearing clean). Buying even 10 clean buses is just eye candy until they finally retire the large fleet of stinky diesels.

The other idea to actually go clean, is to give all the rangers and other staff working there, older, cheaper EVs like used Leafs, Teslas or Bolts to drive inside the park?

The national parks system is not some great big profitable corporation. They operate on a minimal budget as it is mostly supported by tax dollars. They have to manage parks throughout the whole country and Yosemite is just one of hundreds. Some of the national parks are actually closed to the public right now due to lack of funds to operate them.

Basically they have to be careful with their money. They can’t afford to just go out an buy a whole brand new fleet of very expensive and largely unproven electric busses. Ask a park ranger at a national park how the budget is and how much extra money they have. They will tell you. One bus is likely all they can afford.

Please don’t suggest that they should just raise admission prices to pay for new busses either. The mandate of the national parks system is to make these parks available to all citizens, so that means low income people too. As it is, Yosemite is one of the most expensive parks in the nation due to the incredibly high volume of visitors and what that costs the park. They already take heat for high admission prices now.

“The mandate of the national parks system is to make these parks available to all citizens, so that means low income people too. As it is, Yosemite is one of the most expensive parks in the nation due to the incredibly high volume of visitors and what that costs the park. They already take heat for high admission prices now.”


So, why don’t we charge more for foreign visitors then?

In France, UK, Japan and China, non-local or non citizen pay a different rate that local citizens pay. So, why don’t we charge all those visitors a higher rate then?

US NPS is one of the most amazing and lowest priced park system in the world. I am grateful that we have such a nice park system and fully support them. I also understand why we are making it affordable to all citizens of US. (Golden Eagle pass is a no brainer).

Since it is paid by US taxpayers, we should charge foreign citizens the double rate. At $160/year, it is still cheap for an annual pass.


It isn’t expensive to get in. It is $20 per car. Compare that with an amusement park. In CA we pay that or more to park at an amusement park or game.

….and 40% of visitors to Yosemite are foreigners.

California should make the roads to Yosemite toll roads as we pay for their maintenance.

It may be $20 per car now, but that may change soon. The national park service has proposed raising the entry fees at many of the more popular parks to double or in some cases triple the current fees.

Apparently this is due to increased maintenance costs caused by significant increases in park attendance, and not (as one might suspect) because the GOP-controlled congress has slashed their budget.


So, let us increase the cost on the visitors to our parks who are NON-citizen and non-tax payers.

Good to see Proterra win another high profile purchase. But how many buses are in the order? I read it and must have missed that somehow.
2? 20? 200?
Inquiring minds want to know.

Two Catalyst buses, per another article.

Thanks! I was hoping it was a larger order, but once the camel gets his nose under the tent…

It’s a start, and two is better than none!

That’s a great start Yosemite, now how about some charging stations to encourage more visitors to bring their BEVs into the park, maybe discounted admission at the gate as well?

That one measly EVSE in the valley doesn’t cut it.

I’m sorry you find this unacceptable. Feel free to buy more buses for them. I’m sure they will make you a plaque, or maybe even a statue!

The national parks system is mostly paid for with tax dollars and they are always on the chopping block when it comes to budget cuts. The Republicans would just as soon sell off all the parks and be done with it. In short, they don’t have the money for the fancy electric bus fleet you think they aught to have to “cut it”.

Not gonna lie, I kinda miss the double decker propane buses. Those were so cool back in the day. Interesting they went from propane back to diesel as well.

Still this is great news but I’m surprised that the ridership is so low. Only “up to 1,480” per day. Seems like they’re only buying one bus and even still I would think more than 1,500 people would ride it a day.

I was just thinking about how cool the convertible top Red Buses are at Glacier. 80 years old and still working great, albeit with a lot of maintenance. They use a mixture of gasoline and propane that is cleaner than a regular bus but it would be cool down the road to convert them to electric drive.

Propane is a vastly superior fuel for such a use. And it’s making a come back in this type of application. I know everyone is all EVs only!!!! But limited budgets, limited supply of such buses (Proterra is at only a few hundred capacity per year yet…massive undertaking) and the huge improvement from diesel to propane, I say at least stop buying diesel and go with propane.

Electric is cheaper and doesn’t require any scheduled delivery, and no pollution.

Do you see a bunch of high power transmission lines in our National parks?

Yes, propane or CNG would be a vast improvement over diesel. And as Tom seems to be suggesting, using that to power the buses wouldn’t require the installation of high-power electric infrastructure, either.

This early in the EV revolution, EVs are not the answer to every transportation problem. Hopefully someday they will be, but that’s probably at least couple of decades off.

This is another step at cleaning up the valley floor air. I remember Yosemite back in the 1960’s before they had any buses. Yosemite Valley, with the vertical walls towering 1000’s of feet, is the perfect storm for collecting and retaining every cubic foot of campfire smoke and vehicle exhaust. The valley floor air was hazy with smog to the point you frequently couldn’t see the top of the rim on bad-air days. Their first step was to start restricting private vehicle traffic in the valley and implementing the bus system. Second step – hybrid and propane buses. This is the logical next step.

Zion NP in southern Utah has a similar situation and uses buses exclusively going up the valley floor during peak tourist season. Most tourists park at the park entrance now. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear of Zion being the second national park to go all-electric with many of their buses.

They need to just double or triple the buses, have them running every 10 minutes, and force all cars to park at the entrance in a big parking structure. Then provide bicycle rentals as well (maybe haul luggage for people to their lodging as well). What a cool place the valley would be if it were all bicycle/pedestrian and electric buses……

this was proposed decades ago from what I recall….

Do the lodges have solar panels installed on them?

I think putting the solar panels on the lodges as you mentioned would be better than putting them on the cabins, if not merely for appearance then for the fact that the main lodges are more likely to get uninterrupted sunlight.
I think Yellowstone Park has a 44 kW array that uses old Camry Hybrid battery packs to store the energy. But the array is out in the open, not on the roof of the lodges.
I have to admit that I think that the old wood shingle roof cabins would look pretty lame with solar panels on them. Some of the newer cabins have regular shingled roofs that wouldn’t look much worse with solar shingle panels, but I think the solar shingles are more expensive and less efficient than traditional panels, plus the cabins tend to be in the shaded areas.

You must not have been to Yosemite lately. They don’t get much sunshine. Best to use a solar farm somewhere else

While I realize that busses don’t use consumer chargers, I hope this bodes well for installing more EVSEs within the park. There are good options at the park borders, but it’s a bit dicey taking an EV deep inside.

that is great.

But Zion National Park was already converted to E-Bus a long time ago.

Yosemite is actually trying to reduce congestion and crowds in the Yosemite valley by adding more bus fleet. So the timing naturally works out this time.