Montana to invest Volkswagen funds to grow ‘electric fueling’ stations

An electric vehicle charges its battery in Missoula. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Montana will direct revenue from the Volkswagen settlement to create more electric vehicle charging stations along key travel corridors, the state said this week.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality said the grants will match private investments in electric vehicle fueling stations. Doing so will grow the number of stations across the state to 21, making it easier for electric-car owners to reach key destinations, 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, the 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.”

DEQ last year awarded funding for 16 new “Level 2” charging stations and three fast-charging stations using funding from the Volkswagen settlement.

The Level 2 charges take longer to charge a battery than fast charges, but if placed in the proper location, such as a downtown or tourist area, they’ll prompt drivers to visit surrounding shops while filling their car’s battery.

“The growing interest in renewable energy and electric vehicles continues to drive our strategic initiatives,” said Mark Hayden, the general Manager of the Missoula Electric Cooperative, one of the grant recipients. “Teaming up with the Seeley Lake Community Foundation to offer an electric vehicle 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.”

A partnership between NorthWestern Energy and Town Pump will also result in nine new charging stations placed along key travel corridors. The new charging stations will be in service by the fall of 2023, according to the state.

New “electric fueling” stations will also become an option at 15 Town Pump convenience stores.

“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.”

The Montana Department of Transportation said future federal programs funding by the Volkswagen settlement will continue to build the state’s charging infrastructure.

Community and private support for charging-station infrastructure will be critical to increasing the use of electric vehicles in Montana, according to the state.