There will soon be a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations under Big Sky Country. Montana is joining the nationwide plan to install charging stations from coast to coast. The federal project will provide more than a half million charging stations linking urban and rural areas across the continental U.S., with one station for every 50 miles of road. The plan is part of last year’s infrastructure law that included $5 billion for the project.
The new charging stations are significant for the Treasure State, which has vast expanses of open land and long stretches of open highway and interstate where rest stops and towns are few and far between. This state’s size has proved challenging for EVs requiring regular charging. Electric automobile manufacturer Tesla — whose national network of Tesla-specific chargers is a success — has the only current chargers in the entire state of Montana. These stations are located only on Interstates 15, 90, and 94.
“Proximity and availability of electric vehicle charging stations is a critical connection for visitors to small communities and for the support of restaurants and small businesses in key Montana tourism corridors,” said Scott Osterman, director of the Montana Department of Commerce. “This network of charging stations opens up the opportunity for more exploration of the state, supporting local economies. We are excited to see the expansion of this infrastructure in Montana.”
The Montana Department of Environmental Quality oversees the new station build-out, bringing the total number of chargers in the state to 21. Where to build the new national network is a point of discussion for state officials. However, popular travel sites such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are at the top of the list. Cities such as Gardiner, Deer Lodge, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Libby have all secured chargers through the state’s “Fast Charge Your Ride” grant program.
Chargers are likely to be placed along the interstate system and the busy corridors along U.S. Highways 2 and 93.
Montana expects that some stations will have minimal use at first, as little as 10 charges a month. Still, as the popularity and necessity of using electric cars and trucks expands, the chargers will receive significant use.
These stations will be located at familiar stopping points for drivers, such as restaurants and gas stations, including the Town Pump fuel stop chain.
Officials expect the new stations to have a positive impact on Montana, making it easier for residents to take advantage of federal tax credits on EVs and helping companies reach sustainability goals. The stations also encourage private-public partnerships to reduce carbon emissions across the state. Already, major utilities such as the Missoula Electric Cooperative and NorthWestern Energy are working on expanding access to EV chargers.
“We are looking ahead and evolving to meet our members’ needs. The growing interest in renewable energy and electric vehicles continues to drive our strategic initiatives, so teaming up with Seeley Lake Community Foundation to offer an EV charging station in one of our largest rural communities, and one that sees a high volume of tourism, was an easy decision for the Cooperative,” said Mark Hayden, general manager of the Missoula Electric Cooperative.
Montana is just one of 48 states adding EV charging stations. The new coast-to-coast charging station project is an essential stop in the journey as the U.S. works to meet its 2050 emissions goals. The country has fallen behind other world leaders, such as the European Union and China, in building its network. The federal plan gives states the incentive and funding to catch up with a more sustainable world.