ASHEBORO — The North Carolina Zoo now has an all-electric tractor, the 24th electric vehicle (EV) in its fleet. Zoo Director Pat Simmons said their fleet is now 25 percent electric and that electric transit shuttle buses are coming.
This information was announced on Friday, Sept. 29, during National Drive Electric Week. Sponsoring the educational event along with the hosting zoo was Randolph Electric Membership Corporation (REMC).
Also on hand with EVs were a number of automobile dealerships offering test drives.
Simmons said NC Gov. Roy Cooper has directed that the state add 80,000 EVs to its fleet by 2025. That includes the first electric school bus which was presented to the Randolph County School System last May and is currently running routes. It was on display at the Drive Electric event.
Simmons credits REMC with providing the infrastructure to allow EVs to run. She said the zoo has always been concerned about environmental stewardship and replacing its equipment in a smart way.
“We hold ourselves accountable,” she said, adding that software is in place to “track what we’re doing, to be good citizens for the planet.
“It’s exciting to be part of the Drive Electric celebration this year. We welcome the opportunity to introduce our green fleet to visitors and to reinforce our commitment to sustainable practices that reduce our impact on the natural world.”
Michael Trent, REMC’s director of Innovative Energy Solutions, noted that hundreds of similar events were being held around the country. “There are probably only a handful with an electric school bus and fewer still with an electric tractor,” he said.
Trent said the horticulture staff couldn’t wait to put the new Solectrac tractor to use. Staff members displayed later how they’ll be using the vehicle.
“More of our members are asking about the benefits of EV ownership,” Trent said. “Randolph Electric is dedicated to educating our members about how to power your home, your life and your vehicle.”
At the event, representatives from Randolph EMC described how they work with EV owners to evaluate their vehicles’ impact on the electric grid. The REMC Electric Vehicle Utility Program (REVUP) offers members of the cooperative a $500 rebate on a level 2 EV charger for their home. REMC also provides special time-of-use rates that encourage them to charge during off-peak hours when energy is less expensive.
Kevin Franklin, president of the Randolph County Economic Development Corporation, said EVs are providing “incredible opportunities in the region.” He cited Thomas Built Buses in High Point/Archdale, Honda Jet and Boom Supersonic in Greensboro, the Wolfspeed microchip plant coming to Chatham County, Siemens Mobility in Davidson County, Vinfast in Chatham County, and Toyota Battery near Liberty. Together he said they represent more than $14 billion of investment and thousands of jobs in the region.
“I’m super proud to be the home of Toyota Battery,” Franklin said. “They’ll have a technology plant to power the next generation of Toyotas” with an initial investment of $5.9 billion and 2,100 jobs. He predicted that the number of overall jobs to the region will be more than 50,000.
Michael Bacon, regional sales director for Solectrac, said the tractor will be welcome anywhere a reduction in noise is needed. That would include hobby farmers, urban farmers, landscapers, golf courses and horse ranches.
Or a zoo. “The zoo is wonderful for our tractor, with very low noise,” Bacon said.
The Solectrac tractor has four-wheel drive and can run 8-10 hours on a charge. Recharging, he said, takes about 12 hours with 110 volts or eight hours with 220 volts.