After much anticipation, new battery-electric shuttles – funded and powered by Tucson Electric Power shareholders – were placed into service for scenic tours through Sabino Canyon.

TEP President and CEO David G. Hutchens joined elected officials and others from the Regional Planning Center and the U.S. Forest Service at the Nov. 9 kickoff and received a ceremonial ride on the new electric shuttle.

The 62-seat open-air “Canyon Crawler” carries passengers safely and quietly through the canyon without disturbing wildlife or creating emissions that harm the environment. Camouflaged with a dusty green and khaki desertscape exterior, the shuttles blend with the natural surroundings.

Along the one hour, 7.4-mile round-trip tour through the canyon, passengers can simply enjoy the scenic views or listen to a narrated presentation using headsets. The educational presentation highlights interesting facts along the route and is offered in English and Spanish.

The improved shuttle service was a collaborative effort involving several organizations, including the Regional Partnering Center (RPC), Pima Association of Governments, TEP, the U.S. Forest Service and the Friends of Sabino Canyon.

TEP contributed $1.5 million to the RPC and provided an additional $1 million as an interest-free loan to fund the RPC’s purchase of shuttles for the service.

“Electric vehicles will help us reach a cleaner, greener energy future, so TEP is proud to support this collaborative effort,” said Hutchens. “These clean, quiet shuttles will greatly elevate the visitor experience while preserving and protecting the delicate ecosystem in the canyon.”

In addition to funding, TEP upgraded the electric infrastructure to support the installation of charging stations for shuttles. The project involved the installation of a new 2,000-foot distribution line along Sabino Canyon Road in addition to three junction boxes and a 150-kVA transformer.

“The financial contribution TEP provided for the development of the electric shuttles will help sustain the natural environment of Sabino Canyon for customers to enjoy well into the future,” RPC Officer Farhad Moghimi said on behalf of the board.

“This project is a great example of regional collaboration to find solutions to challenges we face, environmental or otherwise,” he added.

  • The new battery powered, electric Sabino Canyon Crawler, on a run in Sabino Canyon as Joe and Ana Maria Hernandez look over the beauty of the canyon.

TEP is playing a key role in driving the deployment and use of electric vehicles in the commercial markets. Some of our efforts include educating the community about EV technology, offering special rates and EV charger rebates for residential customers.

TEP is currently assisting the City of Tucson Police Department and the Sun Tran transit system with electrifying the vehicles in their fleets by providing technical assistance and infrastructure support.

More information about the Canyon Crawler tours is available Nov. 9 on a new website:  SabinoCanyonCrawler.com.