BILLINGS - A vast place like Montana does not seem like the most practical place to own an electric vehicle. However, charging stations are popping up across the state, including in unlikely places such as Custer.
With a population of just over 100 people, motorists may have few reasons to stop in Custer. It's a small enough town that you can see one end of the town from the other.
And that’s why its electric vehicle charging station stands out.
“That particular charging station is actually one of the first that was installed in the state of Montana,” CEO of Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative Brandon Wittman said Monday.
The charging station in Custer was the first YVEC put up, and for years remained the only one the cooperative has installed. That will soon change as YVEC has partnered with the new Albertsons store on the northeast corner of 54th Street and Grand Avenue in Billings to install another charging station.
And 135 miles down the interstate from Custer in Big Timber is a similar scene.
Robyn Parker was making a pit stop to charge his Tesla. It was one of five stops he and his wife mapped out on their 670-mile drive from Spokane, Washington to Sheridan, Wyoming.
And Parker was grateful for a stop like Big Timber.
“Easy off, easy on, whereas in your larger cities, sometimes it’s a little more difficult,” he said.
In 2021, electric vehicle registrations accounted for only 0.1% of all vehicle registrations in Montana.
But more electric vehicle charging stations are popping up, and the demand for EVs is growing. Blake Underriner with Underriner Motors in Billings said if you were to order an electric vehicle today, it would take about three to six months to arrive.
“They usually all sell before they land at the dealerships,” he said.
There are currently 91 charging stations in Montana.
“Montana has tons of charging stations and are building more charging stations each and every day and month,” Underriner said.
With the approval of President Joe Biden's plan of installing half-a-million new charging stations with $900 million in funding flowing across the country, that number is sure to grow.
But Wittman said installing a rapid-charging station, which is growing in popularity and can charge a vehicle in under 90 minutes, is expensive to install.
“We're talking an investment of over $150,000, just to put a rapid charger in,” Wittman said.
It may be an ambitious goal, but one that could bring more visitors to communities like Big Timber and Custer, as long as the popularity of electric vehicles continues to grow.