Guest Column

Why We Need More EVs in the Outdoors

The outdoors is telling us that it desperately needs for us to find a cleaner way to get around

By Roy Rivers

I’m writing to expand on the recent column entitled “EVs and the Outdoors.” I’d like to share my own experience with an EV and to offer suggestions to address some of the concerns in the article.

My wife and I live here in Bigfork. Last year we were looking for a new car and since we wanted to do what we could to help mitigate any negative impact our lifestyle might be having on the outdoors we researched EVs and PHEVs (Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicles). I won’t go into our reasoning on climate other than to mention our simple layperson’s reasoning that the earth’s atmosphere has a fixed volume and that people’s activities have a roughly knowable carbon input to that atmosphere from cars and heating and industry and the like which will undoubtedly have some effect on sunlight coming in and heat going out. Enough said here about that.

So, after looking at Tesla’s Model Y (thank you Flathead Electric for the test drive), and others we decided on the Toyota RAV4 SUV PHEV with its 40-mile electric range and close to 600-mile overall range. But then Tesla dropped its price, the Feds approved a $7,500 tax credit and we decided to dive in with the Model Y. One year and 17,000 miles later – Wow! I still look for excuses to drive this thing. Zero to sixty in 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 135 with power as smooth as spreading warm butter on toast. Single pedal driving – press the accelerator to go faster, let off to slow down including to stop quickly and smoothly (and to charge the battery) – and this all adds up to looking for excuses to drive.
Anyway, back to EVs and the outdoors. If you do want to get to that Cats game in Hamilton from Columbia Falls, the Tesla tells me I can make the 338-mile round trip with a 15-minute charge in Missoula on the way back. That’s fine if a Model Y SUV is what you want. But what if a truck is more your thing? Well, there are those Ford Lightnings. They’re a bit pricey and could be hard to get and maybe the 320-mile range isn’t enough for what you have in mind. They can, however, use Tesla’s extensive supercharging network – more than 50,000 worldwide, 2,100+ in U.S. as of January with lots more being added every month.

Here’s an option that might be what you’re looking for. The 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger PHEV truck hits the market in the Spring of 2025. According to Edmunds it’ll go 145 miles on electricity and a whopping 690 miles on gas and electricity. With 663 horsepower it can tow up to 14,000 pounds. Its estimated price is $65,000 and it may qualify for the $7,500 federal credit. By contrast the 2024 gas powered Ford F-150 has a range of around 550 miles, 325 to 720 horsepower, a towing capacity of 5,000 to 10,000 pounds, and a sticker price of $43,000 to $78,000 depending on which version you choose.

What about cost? According to CarEdge the average price of a new car in 2024 is $48,759 and has been rising every year, while the average cost of a new EV is $55,353 (not counting the possible $7,500 tax credit) and falling each year.

How about maintenance? In the year since we’ve owned our Tesla we’ve rotated the tires once (did it myself) and, well … topped up the windshield fluid a couple times. The Tesla service schedule consists of rotating the tires occasionally and changing filters when they need changing – that’s it. Those expensive to replace EV batteries? Tesla guarantees ours for 120,000 miles and heavy use owners report getting around 300,000 miles from their batteries.
Then there’s the cost of fuel. Here in Bigfork Flathead Electric charges 5.64 cents each for the first 600 kWh (Kilowatt hours) per month and 6.83 cents per kWh above that up to 3,500 kWh. We use something less than 600 kWh per month in our 3-bedroom house, but let’s say all the EV charging is done at the higher rate. Our Model Y gets about 4 miles per kWh around town and about 3 1/2 miles per kWh on the freeway. So, around town our fuel cost is 1.7 cents per mile. On the freeway it’s about 2 cents per mile so combined city/highway fuel cost is something less than 2 cents per mile. By comparison, according to the EPA the Ford F-150 gets between 12 and 21 mpg depending which engine you choose. As I write this the price of a gallon of gas in the Flathead Valley is around $3.59. That works out to a cost per mile for the F-150 of between 17 and 30 cents per mile. That’s around 25 cents per mile versus 2 cents per mile! We could use the free chargers in the Bigfork downtown free parking lot, but for 2 cents a mile at home, why bother? Of course, with an EV there’s the cost of installing a charger at home. I did ours myself for about $475. If you hire someone it might cost as much as $1,500. In either case the Feds will give you back 30% of that cost as a tax credit.
As far as EVs and the outdoors goes, it may not be the most convenient thing to do (although it makes great sense on many fronts) but it seems to me the outdoors is telling us with everything it has that it desperately needs for us to find a cleaner way to get around. I’d say the outdoors is worth it.

Roy Rivers lives in Bigfork.