CN acquires solar canopy, electric cars to reduce pollution
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Natural Resources found a way to reduce carbon emissions by building a solar canopy charging station for electric vehicles in the W.W. Keeler Complex parking lot.
“We were looking at all of the different ways that Cherokee Nation creates carbon emissions. One of the ways that we do that is by having so many vehicles at this complex every day,” Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill said. “Employees come, visitors come back and forth every day constantly. So we thought, ‘what’s a quick way to cut down on the amount of carbon pollution that we’re creating?’ One of the ways to do that was to change the way people drive and help people sort of transition from gas-powered cars to electric cars.”
Hill said officials hope to inspire employees and citizens to consider switching from gas vehicles to electric vehicles. “For one thing, it’s a lot cheaper to drive an electric car than it is a gas-powered car. But a lot of citizens just aren’t familiar with the technology. They’re concerned with ‘how would I drive an electric car? How much is it like a regular car? Does it have the power that I would need or want? Can I get far enough away without a charge?’ So there are a lot of questions that people have.”
To answer those questions, the CN acquired two 2017 Nissan Leaf Zero Emission Vehicles for employees to test drive.
Environmental Resources Senior Director Pat Gwin said the Nissan Leaf ZEV is “just a regular car” except it contains an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine.
“The only thing that’s different is that you don’t hear an engine starting up,” he said. “Everything that pushes this car is electricity.”
The Leaf has features to show the battery’s status, mileage, thermal condition and to switch to economy mode. Also known as ECO-mode, the feature conserves energy by decreasing the vehicle’s power to allow for extra mileage. The extra power is harnessed back into the battery. Gwin said this is called “regeneration.”
“What it does is it takes all that energy and…reverses the polarity of the motor and is juiced back to the battery,” he said.
The solar canopy will have a feature similar to the Leaf’s ECO-mode. Not only will it charge electric vehicles, it will also connect to the Tribal Complex’s power grid and send power to it.
“When it’s not charging electric vehicles it will be sending that power to the complex so that we will be using less power from the grid here and generating some power on our own,” Hill said.
The solar canopy will be capable of charging up to four electric vehicles at once.
“There are only four bays right now where people can plug in their electric car, so there’s only spots for four vehicles. But we hope those spots are competed for quickly and that we have to add additional parking spaces because we can expand that canopy to hold up to eight charging stations,” she said.
CN officials test drove the vehicles and approved of their carbon-reducing capabilities. Hill said the tribe expects to hold events for employees to test drive the Leafs.
“We’re going to have in the future lots of different ride-and-drive events where people will have an opportunity to come and drive one for themselves. What we want our employees to do is have an opportunity to experience driving an electric car,” she said.
The solar canopy is expected to open mid-November.