We hear the phrase “we’re all in this together” a lot these days. And that certainly applies to preserving our precious natural resources. This week, we see how those with the longest ties to our natural history are taking bold steps to ensure a clean future.
The Cherokee nation is located in a 9,000 square mile area of northeastern Oklahoma. Unlike other reservations, Cherokee tribal land is checkerboarded in and around state jurisdictions, and Cherokee citizens are very much a part of the local communities. So maintaining their own civic infrastructure and preserving Cherokee culture while keeping pace with modern society is a vital task.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr.: "Well, our belief, and it’s one that’s held our people together for generations, is that we look seven generations into the future. We look at what our actions today are doing for generations from now. And I think in the world we live in today, it’s important to reduce our carbon footprint, to look for avenues to explore green energy, and I’m standing next to our solar canopy, which is one of our key initiatives to meet that objective, reduce that carbon footprint -- think ahead to future generations, make sure that this reservation that we’re on right now, is going to be clean and pristine. Hopefully cleaner as we go by, thanks to these kinds of initiatives for generations into the future."
The Indian Nations Council of Governments is also home to the Tulsa Area Clean Cities Coalition, easing the way for the Cherokee Nation and other tribal partners to team up through clean cities on a number of clean vehicle projects.
This solar canopy, completed in 2017, currently houses eight, free, public level 2 electric car charging outlets at the Cherokee Nation's main administrative complex.
It generates up to 58,000 kilowatt-hours per year and augments grid power supplied to the buildings when not used for charging vehicles.
When it was installed, there were actually very few electric vehicles registered in the area, but in a classic case of “build it and they will come,” the local EV population, and demand for charging, has grown rapidly.
Chad Hasha: "Since we’ve installed this canopy, we’ve seen both the number of electric vehicles utilizing it increase. Actually we have to increase the number of stalls available. And we have also since that time purchased a number of electric vehicles to supplement our tribal fleet operations."
Once complete, the solar site’s electric vehicle charging capacity will be doubled to 16.
The Cherokee Nation’s EV Initiative also includes four DC fast chargers and additional level twos, installed or planned for tribal lands throughout the area, as well as a significant investment in public transportation.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr.: "We have an electric school bus here in the Cherokee nation, I think it’s the first in the region, and we have some electric transit buses, which we think are the first for a rural-based transit system in the United States."
With just 2000 fluent speakers remaining, attrition of tribal elders through natural causes and from the COVID pandemic losing many tribal elders to COVID has threatened the very viability of the Cherokee language for the future.
This electric school bus transports students in the Cherokee Nation’s groundbreaking language immersion program, where new generations of native speakers are being trained to teach others and keep this vital link to the past alive.
These newly-arrived Proterra electric transit buses carry bilingual signage throughout the interior to act as teaching tools, and as a reminder to all of the importance of not just preserving, but continuing Cherokee traditions.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr.: "If you go elsewhere in the reservation, you’ll see community organizations that are really the hub and the lifeblood of these little communities that again have existed since before the state of Oklahoma was here."
We have to connect people, from home to work and home to health centers. Doing that in an environmentally sustainable way is important, and these transit buses are a big part of that.
And there’s a little bit of a teaching moment about where does energy come from, how do we harness something like the sunlight to power this little community. So, these sorts of things, I think are sparking some interest among young people, which is of particular interest to me, because they’re the ones who are going to take on leading this nation in the future.
H2 the Rescue
How Hydrogen Can Help First Responders
Mounting an effective response to natural disasters or emergency situations often comes down to having the right vehicles and equipment on standby. This week we look at a prototype rescue truck that relies on clean power technology to let first responders hit the ground running.
Efficient use of time and resources in the first hours after a hurricane, flood, fire, or winter storm, especially in remote areas, is critical for setting up a successful recovery operation.
H2@Rescue is a hydrogen fuel cell/battery hybrid truck that can mobilize to disaster sites within a 180-mile range, and then provide power, heating and cooling, and even create water on-site for up to 72 hours before refueling.
The project is a collaboration between several federal agencies, including the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the Army Corps of Engineers and private sector partners. We caught up with the team at Colorado’s National Renewable Energy Lab, where functionality testing was underway.
NICHOLAS JOSEFIK: “The H2@Rescue gives us an opportunity to bring an emergency vehicle into a situation where there is no power or water, and get some eyes on the situation. We can immediately have a command center, we can immediately be producing power– 25 kilowatts worth of power– and we can be generating water on site that could be used.”
H2@Rescue is a Class 7 heavy duty truck weighing approximately 33,000 pounds.The box body is climate controlled and can act as a mobile command center or warming/cooling shelter during an emergency. The truck carries 176 kilograms of hydrogen onboard, in high-pressure tanks. Hydrogen fuel has an energy density about three times that of gas or diesel, and the electric drivetrain used in this truck is more efficient than a similar internal combustion engine.
Conversion of the Kenworth chassis from diesel to hydrogen power was spearheaded by Accelera by Cummins, a new subsidiary of the traditionally diesel-driven engine maker, that will focus on zero-emissions power solutions for the future.
PRATEEK VAISH: “It has a fuel cell, which produces 90 kilowatts at max. There’s a high-voltage battery, which is 155 kilowatt-hours, and there is a traction motor, which is 250. So, in a nutshell, how this vehicle operates is: The fuel cell charges the battery, and the battery provides power to the traction– traction motor. But if the battery is low on charge, the fuel cell can also provide power to the traction motor.”
The transport and fueling infrastructure for hydrogen still lags behind conventional fuels in terms of cost and number of locations due to the need for pressurized tanks and other factors, but that gap could be closed in the future, since hydrogen can be produced and stored locally, potentially right at a fueling site.
Accelera is already a global leader in fuel cell applications with more than 2,000 fuel cells and 600 electrolyzers – the machines that separate hydrogen from water — already in use.
Lessons learned here will help them develop zero-emission power solutions for other vocational vehicles, like electric utility trucks, transit buses, delivery vehicles and long-haul trucks.
PRATEEK VAISH: “And we’re doing a lot of work towards destination zero, which is we’re trying to decarbonize the whole Cummins portfolio by 2050, so this is a great step in that direction.”
H2@Rescue passed the NREL testing with flying colors, proving that hydrogen power can fulfill the critical needs of first responders in these extraordinary situations, and showing one pathway to a zero-emission future for vehicles of all sizes.