More Than A Century Later, Electric Cars Come Full Circle At Thomas Edison National Park

By Jennifer Walkup

A brand new electric car charging station opened at Thomas Edison National Park in West Orange on April 19.
More than a century after inventor Thomas Edison parked his own 1914 Detroit Electric car at his factory on Main Street, a new technological innovation was implemented with the installation of this electric car charging station.
This project was made possible by a partnership between the National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, the US Energy Department and BMW. One hundred electric charging stations will be installed in national parks throughout the country.
“The partnership between The National Park Service, National Park Foundation, BMW, and the Department of Energy made this possible,” said Thomas Ross, National Park Service superintendent. “This will allow electric cars to travel to and around national parks.”
The partnership aims to get more electric vehicles into national parks, rather than relegating electric vehicles to urban areas where charge stations are more easily accessible. This project fosters electric vehicle travel and will raise awareness about electric vehicle technology and plug-in electric vehicles for millions of park visitors. This project will reduce air pollution in national parks and gateway communities.
“We are interested in supporting both electric cars as well as having a positive impact on the environment,” said Ross. “Having the charging stations in the parks will support that. Some parks are many miles of roadways. At this time, we do not have the infrastructure to support electric vehicles in those places. This will change that.”
The electric vehicle charging station in West Orange is located in the laboratory complex’s visitor parking area. The program’s first charging station installation was chosen for the Thomas Edison National Park because of Edison’s inventive nature and his work with electric cars.
“We were proud to launch the national program here in West Orange,” said Ross. “We have two level-two charging stations at the laboratory complex on Main Street. There is a great historical connection. Thomas Edison was very interested in electric cars. It really has come full circle.”
In the mid-1890s, Edison worked on an electric storage battery for use in electric cars. The park has three of his electric cars in its collection, two Detroit electric vehicles from 1913 and a loco mobile from 1905 which was converted from steam to electric. At Glenmont, Edison’s home, which is also open to visitors, Edison’s own original car charging station resides in the garage. This charging station was built by Edison in 1904.
“We want to offer the charging station to visitors of the park but also to our community in West Orange,” said Ross. “We worked closely with the town and with the West Orange environmental committee as well.”
Most stations are two to three miles away in Montclair and near Turtleback Zoo. This new charging station is right in the center of town on Main Street and also near route 280. Courtesy of BMW, the charging station at the Thomas Edison site will operate for free for the first six months.
The program will continue to add electric car charging stations throughout national parks during the next two years. They will determine where to install the charging stations based on the strength and proximity of local electric car markets, the location of other nearby charging stations, as well as various considerations regarding the landscape of the parks.
This partnership supports the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks which aims to strengthen and enhance the future of America’s natural, historical and cultural treasures for the next 100 years. The mission aspires to do so by protecting America’s treasured places, connecting everyone from all backgrounds with the country’s incomparable natural landscapes, rich history, vibrant culture, as well as inspiring lifelong relationships with national parks, and creating the next great generation of park visitors and stewards.
The NPS is responsible for the stewardship of America’s natural treasures and historic sites. Innovation, entrepreneurship and technology are key parts of its mission and story. Modern transportation produces emissions that affect clear skies and scenic views and make it challenging for the NPS to fulfill its mission to preserve natural, historic, and cultural resources unimpaired for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.
The NPS has more than 20,000 employees that care for America’s 417 national parks. The National Park Foundation is the charity and philanthropic arm of the NPS. This nonprofit foundation aims to protect the more than 84 million acres of national parks through conservation and preservation.
The NPS has worked with The US Department of energy on this and other projects in support of the DOE’s Clean cities program by supporting local actions to reduce energy, emissions and petroleum use in transportation. The benefits of these projects will be far reaching for the nation.
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

211 Main Street
West Orange , New Jersey
National Park Service
U.S. Department of the Interior

211 Main Street
West Orange , New Jersey
Thomas Edison
National Hisical ark
Thomas Edison
National Hisical ark

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