Montana looks to build up EV infrastructure

Mtn View Meadows EV charger
Posted at 9:07 AM, Jan 08, 2024

HELENA — Electric vehicles have been in national headlines, but where does Montana stand when it comes to EVs and infrastructure for them? According to data from the US Department of Energy, there are about 60,500 public access EV charging stations across the country and about 120 of them are located in Montana. Currently the state and local governments are working to bolster EV infrastructure.

Two of the newest EV charging stations in Montana are in Helena—one at Bill Roberts Golf Course and one at the Jackson Street parking garage.

“Right now, these are kind of our pilot projects,” City of Helena sustainability and recycling coordinator Miranda Griffis said. “We’re going to see how well the go, how well-receipted they are by the city, how well-used they are by residents. And then, if there is a need for more of them, we could plan to expand that.”

The two charging stations were funded a Charge Your Ride grant from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Money for the grant is from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Settlement.

The Charge Your Ride grant also helped fund a charger at the Mountain View Meadows subdivision. Like the chargers installed by the city, the one at Mountain View Meadows is a level 2 charger.

“This type of charger would probably take a few hours to fully charge your vehicle,” Montana DEQ energy resource professional Neal Ullman said. “But for my car right now, which is mostly charged, I could probably top it off in a couple of minutes.”

Ullman said level 2 chargers are helpful for people driving locally, but not ideal for long-distance travel.

“In terms of fast charging to mimic that long-distance travel experience of gas stations, there are 19 fast charging locations that would work on vehicles like mine—non-Teslas,” Ullman said.

There are about 16 Tesla super chargers across the state, and more fast chargers for Teslas and non-teslas planned across the state.

The federal government sent goals to make half of all new vehicles sold in the US in 2030 zero-emissions vehicles, and create a network of 500-thousand chargers to make EVs more accessible for travelers.

According to the most recent data from the US Department of Energy, EVs make up just a small percentage of vehicles in Montana. In 2022, there were 999,600 light duty vehicles registered in the state and 3,300 were EVs. To put that number in perspective, 765,400 were gasoline vehicles.

Those numbers could change as more infrastructure is built for EVs in Montana. The Montana DEQ and Montana Department of Transportation have plans to do just that with funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Ullman said the goal is to create a “statewide network of fast-charging locations along certain designated alternative fuel corridors,” including all interstates, Highway 2 and Highway 93.

The city of Helena is also planning for more EV infrastructure.

“With the push for more electric both with residential and city-use vehicles, we do need the infrastructure in place for these EVs to support them,” Griffis said.

The US Department of Energy has an online map of EV chargers, and a smartphone app to locate chargers.