Just a few years ago the thought of plugging in a tractor to recharge after a long day’s work seemed far-fetched. Now it will be part of the everyday routine for the staff at the North Carolina Zoo.
In a partnership led by Randolph EMC and supported by North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, the Asheboro-based Zoo added an all-electric tractor to its fleet this fall. The electric vehicle will not just cut out the grueling oil change and costly purchase of diesel, it will have all the same capabilities as its fuel-consuming predecessor.
“Randolph Electric is proud to facilitate this partnership between the North Carolina Zoo and a private sector company dedicated to reducing the carbon emissions,” said Michael Trent, vice president of member services and public relations for Randolph EMC. “This partnership is just another example of how North Carolina’s electric cooperatives work every day to develop sustainable practices that translate to a brighter future for our member-owners.”
The collaboration was a natural fit between all parties. The North Carolina Zoo is a member of Randolph EMC and has worked closely with the local electric co-op on a number of innovative projects over the years, including electric vehicle charging stations, and already has a number of electric vehicles in their fleet.
“The intention from day one was for this tractor to operate no differently than a conventional one,” said Jim Musilek, vice president of innovation and business development and strategic management for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “These types of tractors have been used in greenhouses, municipal applications and livestock with great success. Once we get our hands on the pilot results, we will better understand how they function and where else we can implement technology like this.”
While electric cars and bikes have become increasingly popular in recent years, projects like electric tractors are still breaking ground in the EV world. Musilek says this pilot program will shed light on the possibilities that these machines have for not only the state zoo, but for businesses and consumers state-wide.
“We are thinking outside the box with many of the projects we are working on these days,” said Musilek. “Bringing new solutions like this to the communities we serve is all part of the cooperative difference we strive to make.”
North Carolina’s electric cooperatives have partnered with people and organizations across the state, reshaping our electric grid and network of resources and technologies. To see more of those projects, head over to our grid innovation page.