Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center Gets Eco-Friendly Addition

Magnificent mountain view near a Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.

We are proud to report that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is taking the lead with the adoption of cutting edge green technology. This summer, the Smokies will become the first national park in the U.S. to provide DC fast charging stations for electric vehicles! Visit My Smokies has the details on this exciting new initiative.

Plug in at the Visitor CenterElectric car charging at a Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular, with the United States having the most plug-in vehicles in the world. As of June 2015, over 344,600 highway-capable electric vehicles have been sold since 2008. With more and more electric cars on the road, businesses and other organizations are scrambling to accommodate them.

As reported in the Smokies Guide Newspaper, The Sugarlands Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center will both offer electric vehicle charging stations for the public to use. Visitors to the park will be able to quickly recharge their vehicles when they stop in to use the restroom, pick up a map, or grab a snack.

These eco-friendly improvements to Sugarlands and Oconaluftee were funded by a grant from the Department of Energy and and a partnership with the Clean Cities group. The project also received a donation from Nissan, who make the world’s most popular electric car, the Nissan Leaf.

Car driving on a scenic road to a Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.The Green Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The addition of electric vehicle charging stations to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor centers perfectly complements another recent environmental initiative. Over the past few years, the Black Bear Solar Institute has installed 38 charging stations on the way to the national park.

Known as the “Green Gateway”, these charging stations make it possible for visitors with electric cars to easily travel to the national park from interstate highways and Tennessee’s major cities. In the coming years, The Black Bear Institute plans to construct additional charging stations in the area and to improve the existing sites with solar electric shade canopies, which allow drivers to charge their vehicles with energy from the sun.

Other Eco-Friendly Projects in the Smokies

In addition to the new charging stations in and around the park, the Smokies have made a number of other environmentally conscious improvements in recent years. Some of the park’s accomplishments include:

  • Cutting petroleum use by adding propane pickup trucks.
  • Installing propane refuelling stations.
  • Converting gasoline mowers to run on propane.
  • Replacing gasoline vehicles with hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

These changes are estimated to reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions in the park by nearly 40 Car driving through a tunnel near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.million tons of CO2!

Another environmental victory for the park was the construction of the new Oconaluftee Great Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Center in 2011. Designed to be extremely energy efficient and sustainable, this one of a kind building includes:

  • Roof shingles made from recycled post-industrial rubber with a 50 year life.
  • Sun sensors that dim the interior lights on naturally bright days to conserve electricity.
  • A rainwater collection station that treats the water for non-potable use.
  • A geothermal system that circulates water underground to heat and cool the building.

Breathtaking view near a Great Smoky Mountains National Park visitor center.Better Air Quality, Better Views

All of these eco-friendly projects and other green initiatives are having a tangible impact on the national park. A new analysis of the air quality in the Smoky Mountains shows that pollution is the lowest it has been in years. According to a specialist in the park, haziness is down by about 50 percent.

This improvement in air quality means that visitors will have more beautiful views to enjoy in the Smokies. Just 15 years ago, visibility in the area averaged eight miles. Today, visibility is up to 45 miles! Experts hope that the increased use of electric vehicles in the national park will further cut air pollution and make great views even better.

To learn more about everything in the Smokies, check out our complete guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

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