Guest Column

Montana Energy isn’t Ready for Forced Electric Vehicles

This mandate spells disaster for our state’s energy economy, electric grid, public safety, and way of life

By Barry Usher

Last month, the Biden Administration published their finalized tailpipe emissions rule, an electric vehicle (EV) mandate which will upend the daily lives of Montanans. The EPA’s new emissions rule calls for EVs to account for 56% of all cars by 2032, with two-thirds of all cars being electric or hybrid. However, with the state of Montana’s electric vehicle usage and electric grid, this mandate spells disaster for our state’s energy economy, electric grid, public safety, and way of life. As a business owner in Billings, I am very familiar with these economic challenges, and how they will affect Montana businesses as a whole.

Most obviously, Montana is not an electric vehicle state. Because only 0.18% of cars were electric as of 2021, our state is incredibly behind the two-thirds target that President Joe Biden is mandating. With only 121 charging stations across our entire state, we would need drastic investments in costly charging infrastructure to support an economically viable EV transition. This would disrupt our state’s transportation economy and cost millions to comply with federal regulations.

It’s not any better for people with trucks. About 35% of vehicles in our state are pickup trucks. The Department of Energy estimates that a gas-powered truck with a full load would lose about 14% of its range. A Kelley Blue Book test found that an electric truck with a similar load lost about 25% of its range, traveling only 210 miles before losing its charge. Consumer Reports tested the hauling capability of Ford and Rivian electric trucks and found “significant reductions in driving range for both trucks when pulling a heavy trailer” making them “impractical for long-hauls with a trailer.”

The strain of EVs on our electric grid, which is already reaching its limit, is the most concerning issue with this transition. The EIA estimates that Montanans use 70% of their generated electricity, with the rest sent to other states. Straddling the eastern and western electric grids, our state provides fundamental electricity for the region. Yet with news from California of grid operators desperately requesting limits in EV charging during soaring heat waves, such a forced influx of EVs will no doubt push our critical electricity supply to the brink. Further strain will propel electricity prices up and grid reliability down, leading our state down a path to energy crisis.

This transition will also inject risk into Montana’s power supply, which still relies heavily on coal-fired power plants. Ironically, the mandated use of EVs in the future will force an increase in electricity demand at the very same time that the Biden Administration is working daily to diminish our reliable and affordable energy supply.

Further, EVs have significant safety concerns that make them a poor fit for long distance driving and backcountry use. As reported by CBS News, EVs with heavier batteries and vehicle weights had a greater impact in simulated crashes, posing a higher risk for highway safety. As a retired member of law enforcement, driver safety is of the utmost importance, particularly in a rural state with spread-out communities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also raised concerns about EV battery safety in flooding or extreme weather conditions, which makes them less suitable for Montana’s summer wildfires and harsh winters, and a greater risk to public safety members responding to a crash.

These disastrous impacts can be avoided by stopping the implementation of the Biden Administration’s drastic EV mandate. Repealing this rule is key to protecting Montana’s energy industry and economy, along with consumers and families who simply do not want electric vehicles. To safeguard our state’s reliable electric grid and ability to support other states’ grids, we need leaders to stand up and tell the EPA this rule will hurt Montana, not help it.

Barry Usher is a Republican member of the Montana State Senate from Billings.