The vehicles were purchased using a $197,550 grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, according to the National Park Service.
The park's new cleaner hybrids will replace seven much more polluting vehicles, including two full-size pickups, three station wagons, and a sedan, some of which are over 20 years old, so emissions reduction are projected to be substantial.
"One of the most serious threats that the Smokies faces is the impact of air pollution on the Park's plants, soils and aquatic life." Park Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald said. "We strive, through education and through our own example, to inform the public of ways that they can work towards cleaner air. One way we do this is by gradually transitioning our vehicles and equipment towards cleaner technology."
In 2006, the park used a $33,600 state grant to convert all of its heavy equipment and large trucks to run on B-50 bio-diesel and a second grant of $31,900 to purchase two emission-free electric vehicles.
With the addition of these new Escape Hybrids the park now has 16 hybrid vehicles in service.