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Electric vehicle charging stations introduced in downtown Missoula

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MISSOULA, Mont. - The city of Missoula and NorthWestern Energy teamed up to create a cleaner, more efficient environment. Two new electric charging stations are now installed and ready to use in downtown Missoula's Park Place parking structure.

The charging stations are in the parking structure in short-term hourly parking on the ramp going up from Front Street and in the lease area below that. The stations can charge all models of electric vehicles.

Missoula resident Scott Moses was the first person to plug his Nissan Leaf into the charging port. He says he traded his truck in for an electric car and has already seen more money in his pocket.

"Most of the driving I do, 90 percent of it is in town," Moses said. "I decided what a good way to save money than getting an electric vehicle."

The Missoula Parking Commission is providing the service free of charge. Each station provides about 10 miles of charge per hour of charging.

There are 475 registered electric vehicles in Montana. Half of that number consists of golf carts and similar small vehicles. In Missoula there are 78 registered electric vehicles, with half being similar small vehicles.

NorthWestern Energy officials say they are paying for the charging stations, which cost $10,000 each.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Montana comes in at $2.27. According to Energy.gov it costs less than half that amount to charge an electric car.

In 2016 the University of Montana introduced two zero-emission buses to serve the students on campus. UM officials say they bought the buses for around $800,000 each. They claim it will pay off in about 10 years since the electric buses are cheaper to operate.

UM student Zachariah Bryan says he's glad the university invested in the buses.

"Of course we always have to consider what we do to the environment," Bryan said. "I think it is a very neat idea that the university is trying to be creative in how they interact with the surrounding environment."

NorthWestern Energy and the Missoula Parking Commission say they are using the two charging stations as a test to see if there is a demand for more charging stations at public facilities.

The charging stations are located on East Front Street between South Pattee Street and Clay Street.

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