Toyota Flips Sustainable Power Switch at Yellowstone


Ever wonder what happens to hybrid batteries after they are no longer useable in cars? Well,  Toyota is using them to flip the sustainable power switch at Yellowstone National Park.

The automaker is involved in a first-of-its-kind commercial energy system that uses recycled Camry Hybrid batteries, 208 of them to be exact, to store renewable energy generated from solar panels. It’s all taking place at Yellowstone’s Lamar Buffalo Ranch ranger station. The station, which also serves as an environmental education center, doesn’t have access to commercial power and relies on photovoltaic panels to get electricity. Energy not needed in the daytime is stored in the batteries for later use and all of this is done without producing any emissions.

“Through our long-standing partnership with Yellowstone National Park and the Yellowstone Park Foundation, Toyota has helped preserve Yellowstone for future generations,” says Jim Lentz, chief executive officer at Toyota North America. “Today, our relationship with Yellowstone continues, as more than 200 battery packs that once powered Toyota Camry hybrids have found a new home on the range.”

These particular nickel-metal hydride batteries, which Toyota recovered from U.S. dealerships, provide 85kWh of power and the whole system can power six average households a year. In Yellowstone, it’s used to power five buildings on the Ranch campus, which was built in 1907.  Each battery pack has been disassembled and tested, and every piece that could be was repurposed.

“Toyota’s innovative response to solve a difficult problem has helped Yellowstone move closer to its goal of becoming the greenest park in the world,” says Steve lobst who is the acting superintendent at Yellowstone.

There’s something in it for Toyota, too, besides getting to wave the eco-friendly green flag. It can use the set-up as a research tool. Monitoring the battery management system could help the automaker design future batteries, which it turns out can still hold a decent charge event after their lifespan inside a vehicle.  In fact, Toyota’s engineers expect this type of use to double their overall lifespan.

Toyota already provides hybrid vehicles for Yellowstone park operations, along with green building expertise, and financial backing for the Old Faithful Visitor Education Center that opened in 2010.

Onsite micro-hydro turbine systems, capturing energy from a neighboring stream, are scheduled to join the power mix in 2016.  To learn more about Yellowstone National Park sustainability initiatives, check out Yellowstone’s Strategic Plan for Sustainability.

Photo Credit: Toyota
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