New charging stations for electric vehicles made their debut in Seeley Lake on July 25. It was built by Missoula Electric Cooperative and funded in part by a "Fast Charge Your Ride" grant from the State Of Montana's Department of Environmental Quality.

 

EV charging stations are becoming more and more ubiquitous in Western Montana: a look at Google Maps shows us nine such stations in Missoula alone:

Credit: Google Maps
Credit: Google Maps
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Charging electric vehicles (EVs) is not that complicated; instead of pumping gasoline into your gas tank, you hook up to the charging station which delivers power to your battery. These charging stations can deliver power at three levels:

  • Level 1 - the longest charge time, it delivers power at a rate of about 1.7 kWh (kilowatt hours) If you own an EV, you can hook your car up to a 120v outlet in your garage and get the same charge rate in the same amount of time.
  • Level 2 - the industry standard, most charging stations you'll find in shopping centers deliver level 2 power to EVs at a rate of about 10-18 kWh.
Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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A Level 2 charging station near the Reserve St Walmart in Missoula. The cost is $0.60/minute

And finally, we get to what everyone wants:

  • Level 3 - the fastest charging station. The new one in Seeley Lake is level 3, which delivers 50 kWh. A full charge, depending on battery size and usage, typically takes about a half hour.

Level 3 or "direct current fast chargers" are perfect for owners of EVs who are travelling long distances since in remote regions like Montana, EV charging stations are few and far between. However, that fast charging costs more: a full charge from a DCFC station can be anywhere from $10 - $30.

The new MEC station in Seeley Lake has a level 2 charger which costs $0.35 per kWh, and the level 3 one will boost your juice for a flat rate of $3.50/hour.

MEC Energy Specialist Dan Rogers:

We'd like to add more charging stations, however we're a non-profit cooperative and without the grant money, this wouldn't have been possible. As more funding becomes available, we'd love to help make Montana more accessible for EV drivers.

When you compare $30 to the cost of topping of a gasoline tank in 2022, what matters more? The cost or the amount of time spent waiting?

Credit: Benny Edwin
Credit: Benny Edwin
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A level 2 charging station in Missoula. The cost: anywhere from free to about $2.50 per hour

Missoula Electric Cooperative's new station in Seeley Lake offers the only EV charging on State Highway 83 from Clearwater to Big Fork. Visitors to Western Montana with EVs will appreciate the convenience.

I'm not going to get into the politics of EV versus traditional gas powered vehicles, nor am I going to entertain the idea of driving myself bonkers about comparing the environmental impacts of coal and electricity and oil imported from other countries. My sanity is worth more than that.

I will, however, appreciate that consumers have more options than ever; what to drive, where to refuel, etc. It's good for business, it's good for our Montana economy and it's good for consumers.