ASHEBORO — The N.C. Zoo is the first major attraction in the state with electric vehicle charging stations. Monday morning those stations were officially dedicated with a ribbon cutting assisted by Michael Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Regan commended the zoo staff for setting an example to the rest of the state in clean energy opportunities. Speaking to an audience at Solar Pointe, a large sheltered picnic area with solar panels on the roofs, Regan called the area “a great way to blend education, fun and saving the planet.”
Along with the solar energy, the zoo practices policies that, according to Regan, have reduced its energy consumption by 30 percent since 2002. Now the zoo, in a partnership with Randolph Electric Membership Corp. (REMC) and ChargePoint, offers drivers of electric vehicles the ability to charge their batteries while visiting the zoo. There are two charging stations at both Solar Pointe, at the south end of North America, and the Stedman Education Center parking lot at the entrance of North America. Each station is able to charge two vehicles at once.
As the only major attraction in the state with charging stations, Regan said, the zoo can “grow access to clean energy while encouraging the use of electric vehicles.” He said he was heartened that state agencies have “become global leaders in energy production and use.”
A goal of the state, Regan said, is that “all North Carolina have access to clean energy and reduce the use of dirty carbon fuels.” He said a thriving renewable energy program in the state will create jobs, reduce the state’s carbon footprint and encourage travelers to visit North Carolina attractions. He thanked the zoo for setting the example for others.
Zoo Director Pat Simmons hosted the event and greeted several dozen in attendance, including representatives of REMC, ChargePoint, the N.C. Zoological Society, state legislators and local elected officials. She said the zoo is not only the first major attraction with EV chargers but also the first in a rural area of the state.
The chargers at the zoo, she said, “assist in filling the gaps for travelers coming from within North Carolina and beyond. Within four to five hours, an electric vehicle will be fully charged, and this is about the same amount of time most people stay at the zoo for a visit.”
She noted that EV drivers use apps to find charger stations and the zoo will be on those apps.
Dale Lambert, CEO of REMC, called the zoo “a leader in sustainability, conservation and environmental stewardship and we’re proud to have partnered with them from the very beginning.”
He talked about ways REMC and the zoo have worked together over the years on improvements, including recent upgrades of the underground infrastructure.
“We appreciate the opportunity to work with the N.C. Zoo and ChargePoint to make these charging stations available to the growing number of owners of electric vehicles that visit this great attraction,” said Lambert. “These EV chargers are among the first in a statewide network being developed by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. Our goal is to support tourism by accommodating the charging needs of travelers, while also facilitating access to EV technologies in rural communities.”
Whitney Smith, ChargePoint sales director for North Carolina and Tennessee, said, “ChargePoint’s mission is to connect EV chargers everywhere. With a place like the N.C. Zoo being in a beautiful area, it’s an absolute pleasure. We’re grateful for the opportunity and proud to be part of the project.”
The EV chargers at the zoo are available and free to anyone with an electric vehicle.