One of the most popular national parks in the United States will now test how well a hydrogen powered shuttle system would work on one of its main roads, thanks to a $1 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority.
Receiving approximately 2 million visitors each year --most of whom travel in gas emitting vehicles-- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has decided that piloting a shuttle service will address all of its goals toward reducing the park’s climate impact. Those goals include reducing the park’s emissions and fuel use, as well as educating the public about climate change. The program will run for two years—and then hopefully will continue if deemed feasible and worthwhile.
Cindy Orlando, the park’s superintendent says that “Hawai‘i Volcanoes is a climate friendly park. It’s exciting to pilot a project that will reduce petroleum use and promote renewable energy… A hydrogen-powered shuttle system will help protect the landscape and soundscape, enhancing the park experience for both visitors and Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners.”
Seems like a good idea, right? Most of us would say, of course! But then again, when’s the last time that you’ve heard about a company or individual trying to develop a hydrogen powered car? A recent article about a newly unveiled hydrogen car explains that “hydrogen cars have so far enjoyed little real-world success, due in part to a lack of charging infrastructure, cost and – more recently – a political swing towards electric cars.”
To ensure that the hydrogen shuttle pilot program achieves the best results possible, the park has partnered with numerous agencies and organizations to gain additional financial support and expertise. Among them are the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and the Hawaii Center for Advancement of Transportation Technologies. The Natural Energy Institute was recently the recipient of a five year $1 million annual grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. They are charged with the task of developing a National Marine Renewable Energy Center that researches the potential to develop tidal power. The Center for Advancement of Transportation Technologies has been working on projects to develop a hydrogen-based infrastructure in Hawaii for more than a decade.
It’s not new for U.S. national parks to offer shuttle services. Glacier National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Yosemite National Park and Denali National Park already offer a diverse variety of shuttle services that reduce emissions while also making travel more convenient for park visitors. Zion National Park claims that their program reduces greenhouse emissions by approximately 13,926 tons each year.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers just what you would think from its name. The park features 2 of the most active volcanoes in the world but also has an astounding and unparalleled level of unique species protected within its borders. 90% of Hawaii’s animals and plants are found only in Hawaii. The islands’ ecosystems are also considered to be the most isolated in the world. As a result, according to the park’s website, the islands’ “level of endemism surpasses all other places on Earth— even the Galapagos Islands.”
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