Thinking of Buying an Electric Vehicle in Montana? What You Need to Know

So you‘re intrigued by the torquey acceleration and high-tech features offered by today‘s electric vehicles (EVs), and you want to make the switch from gas. But here‘s the key question: is Montana currently prepared to support EV owners’ needs?

Unfortunately, the answer right now is…not quite. Our state falls short on several fronts that matter for EV success. But don‘t despair! I’ve put together this comprehensive guide examining the current landscape for EV ownership in Big Sky Country.

Below I’ll assess everything from Montana‘s limited charging infrastructure, to the extra costs you could incur, to whether incentives exist that reduce prices for going electric. My aim is to provide informed analysis as an EV data guru so Montanans can evaluate if adopting an EV works given our state’s present (but improving) conditions.

Let’s get rolling!

Montana’s Sparse Charging Infrastructure

Here’s an sobering statistic about Montana’s preparedness for electric vehicles:

Our state currently has only 90 public charging stations according to the latest data from the Department of Energy. That minimal network ranks us 48th out of 50 states for EV charging availability.

To paint the picture plainly, long stretches of Montana highways and backroads have zero stations in place for recharging EV batteries. Running out of juice in a remote area risks stranding drivers for hours or even overnight. Even around major cities, finding an available public charger can be iffy depending on demand.

Let me zoom in specifically on the types of EV charging stations currently accessible for Montanans:

Home Chargers

All electric vehicles come equipped to charge using a 120-volt Level 1 cable on regular household outlets. That offers a trickle charge adding roughly 2-5 miles of range per hour. Handy in a pinch, but not practical as your sole charging solution.

Most EV owners opt to install a 240-volt Level 2 charger through an electrician, which can fully recharge an EV battery overnight when circuits align. This works well if you have a garage to house the equipment.

Public Chargers Statewide

DC Fast Chargers (50+ kW) capable of adding 50-100 miles of range in 15-30 minutes? Montana has approximately 30 statewide, almost entirely around towns like Bozeman, Billings, Missoula and Helena shown on this map. Reaching some rural areas could require 100+ mile detours even in an EV with 200+ mile battery range.

Connector TypeMontana Stations*Compatible Vehicle Examples
J177267Nissan LEAF, Chevy Bolt, BMW i3
CCS13Audi e-tron, Porsche Taycan

* = As per July 2022 Alternative Fuels Data Center station counts

Simply put, you’ll need to carefully pre-plan routes around charging stop gaps that people used to 5-minute fill-ups likely take for granted.

Let’s crunch the numbers on what powering an EV in Montana will actually cost you. Because beyond inconvenience, there are $ implications too…

Cost Breakdown: Charging Electric Vehicles in Montana

Taking an EV for a spin always costs less than gassing up if you charge at home using Montana‘s relatively cheap residential electricity rates. But stray from your personal charge port and expenses can quickly spike. Let‘s examine both scenarios:

Charging at Home

Electricity rates in Montana average just $0.11 per kWh thanks to utilities like NorthWestern Energy primarily generating power via low-cost dams, wind and other renewables. If installing a 240V outlet or an EV charger costs say $1,000, you‘d recoup that by saving roughly $700 yearly on ‘fuel‘ if replacing a 25 MPG car driving 15,000 miles annually. That‘s over $3,800 saved in the first 5 years alone if gas averaged $4 per gallon.

Based on the EVs I highlight later with 100+ kWh battery packs, a full single charge adding 200-300 miles of range back would cost just $11-17. Barely over $100 per year if replenishing once weekly.

Public Charging Stations

Here‘s the catch: public charging station electricity demand fees and sparse state/federal incentive funding lead to Montana having the 5th most expensive public charging rates nationwide. The state average exceeds $0.35 per kWh–over 3 times higher than residential rates!

Suddenly that 200-300 mile recharge out-and-about might cost $70-105. Still less than a comparable gas fill-up, but enough to trigger some range anxiety about when/where to plug in away from home.

Hopefully you‘re starting to see how charging convenience and associated expenses should be prime considerations around committing to EV ownership in Montana at present.

Navigating today‘s minimal infrastructure and high public charging costs takes dedication. But the situation is improving…albeit slowly until certain hold-ups can be overcome.

Why Montana Trails Behind for EV Adoption

To explain our state‘s sluggish EV infrastructure growth compared to trendsetters like California or New York, we need to highlight a few realpolitik speed bumps:

  • With sprawling ranches and vast public lands spanning huge distances, much of Montana lacks population density to spur private investment. Charging stations simply haven‘t attracted ample funding yet from companies projection revenue growth.

  • Republican super-majorities in Montana‘s state legislature align with national party resistance to climate action policies benefiting EV adoption. Battery-powered cars threaten bonds with the gas/oil industry that help fill state coffers.

  • Montana‘s electrical grid modernization continues lagging behind most states in capacity to handle increased loads from widespread EV charging. Upgrades required to allow seamless long-distance travel haven‘t manifested yet.

  • Bottom line: we rank dead last among U.S. states for electric vehicle incentives right now according to EnergySage. Laws supporting purchase rebates, charging infrastructure, etc. haven‘t gained traction in Helena.

So for the time being, embracing an EV here requires patience and adapting expectations aligned with areas much further along embracing this technology. But that endurance WILL pay off eventually–especially as gas price volatility continues!

Which Electric Cars Are Best For Montana?

Even in today‘s climate, several electric models stand out for blending range, charging needs, off-road durability, specs and price given Montana adventures awaiting.

After extensive data analysis, I suggest considering these top options if moving forward with plans to go electric:

1. Rivian R1S

The R1S SUV excels at acceleration and off-road performance thanks to standard all-wheel drive putting power down through four electric motors – one at each wheel.

  • 135 or 105 kWh battery options
  • 260-316 miles EPA-rated driving range
  • 0-60 mph in 3.0 seconds
  • Wading depth 3+ feet to handle water crossings
  • Available pull-out Camp Kitchen perfect for Montana overlanding

Pricing starts around $79,000 before the one incentive still applying: a $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

2. Ford F-150 Lightning

Think the F-150 Lightning couldn‘t handle Montana terrain alongside ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts relying on the venerable workhorse? Think again! Going all-electric boosts this truck‘s capabilities:

  • 300+ mile extended range battery
  • 9,600+ pounds max towing
  • 2,000+ pound payload
  • Nearly 100 cubic feet of lockable "frunk" storage
  • Up to 10 home plugs enabling backyard power during outages
  • Starts under $55,000 for commercial buyers thanks to federal credits

This full-size EV pickup has everyday work/play flexibility worthy of the F-150 badge.

3. Tesla Model X

Touted as one of few SUVs rivaling supercars in acceleration, the falcon-winged Tesla Model X checks numerous boxes for tech-focused EV shopping. Some key specs that play well given Montana‘s landscape:

  • 350+ mile maximum range bests any vehicle on this list
  • 3.1 second 0-60 mph sprint meets neck-snapping velocity criteria
  • Available tow hitch package rated for 5,000+ pounds
  • HEPA bioweapon-grade air filtration limiting road dust intake
  • Seating/cargo capacity rivaling standard full-size SUVs

The cost definitely exceeds most other options starting around $120,000. But financing assistance can ease the sticker shock.

Final Thoughts – Consider Your Options

Bottom line: electric vehicles can serve Montana well despite our current lack of robust public charging solutions. But thoughtfully weighing lifestyle transportation needs versus performance realities proves vital before committing.

Above all, avoid overestimating range capabilities and underestimating charging access difficulties that could quickly spoil enthusiasm for EVs not quite ready for prime time in Big Sky Country.

My key strategic advice? For now at least, view electrics as adrenaline-surging toys warranting a second dependable vehicle as backup for rural Montana life far from charging oases when adventure calls. The optioning and emerging infrastructure truly EXCITES me…but temper expectations against present limitations looking 5-10 years down the road.

I sincerely hope this guide illuminated the real perks AND pitfalls around owning an electric vehicle in Montana given today‘s maturing landscape! Feel free to reach out directly as you evaluate options. Perhaps I can assist researching incentives, estimating costs or planning charging access solutions to turn EV curiosity into conviction.

To a high-tech future beyond fossil fuels!

Mike Evans
EV Enthusiast / Analyst
Great Falls, Montana

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