New Charging Stations Bring Expanded Travel for Electric Vehicles Across Montana

Department of Environmental Quality
  • Moira Davin
  • December 06 2021

HELENA—New electric vehicle charging stations, made possible by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) share of the Volkswagen Settlement funds, will expand travel options across Montana’s key corridors for electric vehicle drivers. The grants match private investments in electric vehicle fast-charging stations, bringing the total number of stations across the state to 21 and adding key corridors with access to popular travel sites such as Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

“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, 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 recently awarded “Fast Charge Your Ride” grants were awarded to four successful applicants:

  • GBP Enterprises, Gardiner: One fast-charging station at the Gardiner Travel Center
  • Missoula Electric Cooperative, Seeley Lake: One fast-charging station and one Level 2 charger at the Seeley Lake Community Foundation
  • NorthWestern Energy, Big Timber, Billings, Conrad, Deer Lodge, Dillon, Great Falls, Hamilton, Hardin and Helena: One fast-charging station and one Level 2 charger at a Town Pump in each community
  • Town Pump, Eureka, Kalispell and Libby: One fast-charging station and one Level 2 charger at a Town Pump in each community

The funds awarded focus on establishing fast-charging locations for Montana’s key travel corridors including Interstate 15, Interstate 90, U.S. Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 93.

“When DEQ opened the grant application process, we were excited at the level of interest across the state to expand electric vehicle travel. DEQ’s partnership with these successful awardees will build a network of fast-charging stations that Montanans and visitors driving electric vehicles can depend on,”said DEQ Director Chris Dorrington.

The awards went to individual businesses where travelers commonly stop. 

“This year, especially, we saw an increase in the need for EV charging stations. As a gateway community at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park, we are very proud to offer electric charging stations to the over 4.4 million visitors as well as local community members,”said Katy Guengerich, owner of the Gardiner Travel Center.

The funding will bring electric vehicle charging station technology to rural communities that attract tourists.

“As a member-owned electric cooperative, it is imperative that 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, Missoula Electric Cooperative.

A partnership between NorthWestern Energy and Town Pump will result in nine new charging station locations in key corridors. NorthWestern Energy’s expertise in electric infrastructure and Town Pump’s network of locations along key travel corridors create a natural partnership to expand access to electric vehicle charging stations for travelers in Montana. The new charging stations will be in service by the Fall of 2023.

Town Pump has been the place many Montanans and tourists stop to fuel their vehicles. ‘Electric fueling’ will soon be an option at 15 Town Pump Convenience Stores across Montana. Town Pump is also independently installing charging stations at locations in Whitefish, Boulder, and a new Town Pump under construction in Billings.

Throughout Town Pump’s nearly 70 years of serving Montanans, we have understood the value of adapting and evolving to the needs of our customers,”said Jim Kenneally of Town Pump.“If our customers are moving in this direction so will Town Pump,” he continued.

Town Pump Convenience Stores with charging stations are open 24 hours a day and offer public restrooms, food, beverages and a casino. Charging stations in Big Timber, Conrad, Hamilton and Helena are located next to a Town Pump operated hotel.

“NorthWestern Energy is investing in electric vehicle charging station infrastructure to aid in providing access to interested individuals and businesses and we’re pleased to partner with Town Pump, DEQ and others to make it happen,”said NorthWestern Energy Manager of Energy Efficiency and DSM Services Danie Williams.“We’re also working to replace 20% of our own medium and heavy duty fleet vehicles, 30% of our bucket trucks and all of our forklifts with electric vehicles by 2030.”

In 2020, DEQ also awarded funding for 16 Level 2 charging stations and three fast-charging stations using a portion of the Volkswagen Settlement funds. While fast-charging stations are important to travel long distances with short charging stops, Level 2 chargers also play important roles. The Level 2 chargers funded by DEQ are located in key downtown or destination locations. Charging times are longer with Level 2 stations, but they encourage electric vehicle drivers to plug in and explore the surrounding area which helps drive business to local stores and restaurants.

“As a state agency we are committed to quality, safety and accessibility of transportation in Montana. The Montana Department of Transportation is excited for what the future holds for electric vehicle use and supporting infrastructure improvements,”said Malcolm “Mack” Long, director of The Montana Department of Transportation.

The stations are funded through the Volkswagen settlement funds, which are intended to reduce harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions that contributes to unhealthy air. Montana received $12.6 million from the national Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Settlement. The settlement against Volkswagen concerned the use of devices installed in certain Volkswagen diesel cars sold between 2009-2016 that were intended to defeat emissions tests. These devices allowed the vehicles to emit up to 40 times the level of NOx pollution allowed under the Clean Air Act.

The Montana Department of Transportation said that anticipated future federal programs can build on charging infrastructure funded through the Volkswagen Settlement funds. Community and private support for charging station infrastructure will also be critical to increasing the use of electric vehicles in Montana.