Flathead Electric launches program for electric car charging stations

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    Electric vehicles are slowly gaining ground in the Flathead Valley.

    Currently, Flathead County has the second highest number of electric cars in the state after Missoula.

    To measure this growth, Flathead Electric in Kalispell launched a new pilot program for electric car charging stations. The co-op currently has charging stations for their employees on their premises and wants to partner up with other local businesses that would like to install charging stations for their employees.

    They estimate the cost to install charging stations can vary depending on the infrastructure of the buildings, but at minimum will cost a few thousand dollars.

    David Bopp, energy services representative at Flathead Electric and the brain behind the program, says the effort will also help the cooperative stay on top of the electric car growth in the valley.

    “Do they see adoption rates for the vehicles? Do they see use of it -- what type of use? Growth? We basically want to test the water locally,” said Bopp.

    The organization currently has a survey online to gather a list of businesses interested in having electric vehicle charging stations.

    “One of the biggest impediments of electric vehicle adoption is where can it charge?” says Walter Rowntree, the head of FEC’s electric vehicle committee.

    Rowntree is currently one of the few Tesla electric car owners in the Flathead Valley.

    He was an early electric car adopter, saying he and his wife found the experience of driving electric cars to be far superior than that of gasoline.

    Rowntree admits the lack of a strong charging network in the valley leaves owners with limited options.

    John Goroski, the director of regulatory affairs at Flathead Electric, is currently reaping the benefits of being able to charge his hybrid electric car at work.

    “What you’ll see is that during the winter you’ll have less range” said Goroski.

    He blames using the heater and defroster more, but says being able to charge at work allows him to go “all battery."

    The co-op hopes the program will help make things easier for current electric vehicle owners, and that their low cost and maintenance will appeal to more families in the Flathead.

    Bopp maintains that an electric car is ideal for those two-car families in the Flathead who may have their truck to haul bigger things for recreational activities, but who also have a second car for commuting.

    “In California you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Tesla, but here there are only a few,” said Rowntree.

    That could change with time.

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