Patrick Lawson of Riverton was in the driver’s seat of a Tesla Model S 100D Ludicrous between Rawlins and Laramie on Interstate 80 last week, but it was the car that was doing the driving. 

“It’s passing a semi truck right now because [the semi is] going too slow,” Lawson told WyoFile.

Cross-winds of up to 60 mph were chewing into mileage, Lawson said. But after departing from home in Riverton with a full battery he’d topped it off at a “high-speed” EV charging station during a stop in Rawlins. A full charge will propel the Tesla over 300 miles of road, he said.

However, relying on an electric vehicle in Wyoming can be challenging. There are many “dead zones” — especially in the central portion of the state, Lawson said. Also, most all the existing charging stations available to the public are exclusively designed to charge Tesla vehicles.

That will soon change, thanks to a new federal EV infrastructure initiative. Wyoming has access to nearly $24 million in federal dollars to begin “electrifying” its roadways, beginning with the three interstates in the state.

“We need more fast-charging stations that are open to all brands,” Lawson said.

Going EV in Wyo

There are other considerations besides battery-draining wind when piloting an EV in Wyoming. Driving up mountains, hills and long inclines will reduce mileage — the same for petrol-propelled vehicles, Lawson said. The benefit of an EV, however, is as long as you have enough juice to crest an incline, the vehicle gains mileage on the decline by recharging the battery.

A Tesla Model 3 at a “supercharger” station in Evanston, Wyoming. (Patrick Lawson)

He learned that lesson the hard way during a drive through Utah when his vehicle ran out of power near the top of a climb just outside a town with EV charging stations. He had to call for a tow. 

“It was kind of embarrassing,” he said. 

Yet for all of the elevation, wind gusts, extreme weather and long distances between charging stations, Wyoming is a good place to be an EV owner, said Lawson, who boasts being part of an “all-EV” family. His wife drives a 2017 Tesla Model X 100D and his son drives a 2012 Nissan Leaf. His mother and sister also drive EVs in Wyoming. The bottomline for Lawson is EVs save money. 

It costs around $10 to add 200 miles of range, according to Lawson. That’s less than a third the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle, at $3 per gallon. His home charging station cost less than $2,000 to install, and he estimates the extra power load nudged up his home electric bill by about $50 per month.

“It’s worth it for me because I drive a lot of miles,” said Lawson, who serves as executive manager for Wind River Internet.

However, Wyoming needs a major buildout to shorten the distance between EV charging stations. Another urgent need is for charging stations to accommodate all brands and models of EVs. There’s an all-brand EV charging station in Jackson. The Harley-Davidson dealership in Cheyenne has a charging station for Harleys. But almost all other existing EV stations in Wyoming are designed exclusively for Tesla vehicles because Tesla paid for them.

Tesla installed a series of electric charging stations in Wyoming, including this one in Sheridan. But the stations only work for Tesla vehicles. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile)

That’s one of the mandates of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program that’s driving billions in federal dollars to states. Wyoming already has a federal NEVI allocation of $3.9 million, and will receive another $5 million each year for the next four years. The Wyoming Department of Transportation just released its draft Zero Emission Vehicle Strategy under the NEVI program, and will launch a series of public meetings across the state to fine-tune the strategy, beginning Monday in Cheyenne.

“We want to know, how do we make this plan better?” Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner said.

Electrifying roadways

There’s only 460 EVs currently registered in Wyoming, and about 360 of those are Teslas, according to WYDOT. But tens of thousands of EVs — of all varieties — travel Wyoming roadways, and the numbers are quickly increasing for both commercial and tourism traffic.

“Tourism is our second-largest industry in terms of the state’s economy,” Reiner said. “So it’s really important for us to set the conditions to allow tourists with electric vehicles to visit our great state and to see the sights.”

The federal NEVI program mandates states to first “electrify” main corridors. “In order, that’s [Interstate] 80, I-25 and I-90, that’s how we’re going to tackle that,” Reiner said. Along those routes charging stations must be within 50 miles of each other, must accommodate a minimum of four simultaneously charging vehicles, and must be located within a mile of an interstate exit.

Other federal priorities for Wyoming include main tourism routes to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, which mostly rely on public input to determine. Secondary routes for general connectivity across the state rank third in the list of federal EV infrastructure priorities. WYDOT is going to “stretch” the federal NEVI dollars as far as possible, Reiner said, but there are other funds available to continue the EV infrastructure buildout.

A Tesla Model X 100D with a cargo trailer at the Walmart in Riverton. (Patrick Lawson)

“Discretionary” grants are available via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Plus, Wyoming has access to more than $8 million from the Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement. Those programs include various matching requirements, but communities can already apply for the funds, which is an important option, Reiner said. The NEVI program mostly focuses on the installation of charging stations along corridors and routes, not necessarily within cities and towns.

WYDOT will begin accepting proposals from contractors within the year, Reiner said. The EV infrastructure effort is another example of a federal program that provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to specialize in a growing industry, and Reiner said he hopes some of those businesses will be located in Wyoming. 

Another vital piece of the NEVI program is broadband, Reiner said. Charging stations must be connected to the internet — that’s how customers pay for the electricity.

Given the recent gasoline price shock spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lawson said he expects EVs will quickly become more socially acceptable in Wyoming. Especially as carmakers produce more trucks and SUVs with towing power, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Rivian R1T. 

Lawson said his company, Wind River Internet, has been shifting its fleet from petrol to electric vehicles.

“It’s great because we were spending a fortune on gas,” he said. “We drive 100 miles a day and we were spending like $500. Now we’re spending like $50 or $60 on electricity.”

Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Dewey, Lusk is strategically located on the threshold of civilization roughly 250 road miles from Metro Denver and is the exact point on the old Cheyenne to Deadwood stagecoach trail where things really start to get spooky for city slickers trekking to the Black Hills, Badlands, and beyond…….Picking up one last cup of real coffee, some fresh horses, and a couple extra KWHs would be prudent advice for any intrepid travelers entering parts unknown……..

    1. I find it odd that all the pro windturbines and solar farm groups/people just don’t want to talk about the alarming number of birds/eagles/hawks this “green” power kills. One company was just fined $3 million I believe it was for killing 150 eagles. That fine and others will just be passed on to consumers/end users. I am all for a better way. But everything generates waste. I. E. The bio fuels take food crops and make fuel. Generate huge amounts of CO2 that is released into the air. Yet same group ignores that and is critical of industry that may have emmissions as well. No one thinks the issue all way thru the process. Makes no sense to solve one issue while creating worse issue.

  2. Here is an ironic little factoid that has been overlooked by the newsies in reporting on Wy-DOT’s effort to electrify that state’s primary roadways for the coming surge of EV’s. What has been reported accurately is that there are less than 600 EV’s registered in all of Wyoming presently . There are three counties that have no EV’s registered locally …Big Horn County (where they live like Amish) ; Crook County ; and Niobrara County. The latter is home to that dynamic metropolis named Lusk.

    The irony is that for several years the ONLY public Level 3 fast charger for a Tesla car in all of Wyoming was in the corner of the parking lot of the Covered Wagon Motel in downtown Lusk. Tesla put it there when they deployed the first chargers for their initial coast-to-coast charging network . You didn’t have to be a cartographic genius to see that Wyoming was a giant black hole for electric vehicles. Then , and now. Tesla did this eight years ago , in 2014. Things ain’t changed all that much since. Wyoming is still mostly an EV desert. My tourist trap town of Cody is desparate to become a Tesla oasis if it only knew how ( it does not ).

    Meanwhile. Lusk still has no EV’s , only the charger. That’s how we roll in the Cowboy State.

  3. Alex. For your information when you compare apples to apples. A KWH contains 3.6 million joules of energy. 1 gallon gasoline contains 120 MILLION joules of energy! No comparison on energy/effiency.

  4. Alex. You are wrong on saying EV runs at 1/8 the cost of ICE unit. Experts say only 3-7 miles per KWH of charging is average “mileage”. If you run 100 miles a day and charge at nite at your house. I will bet you will have a $300-$400 electric bill at end of the month. Just running my power tools in my garage doing wood working it takes nothing to push my bill over $140-$150 month. Plus if I plug my pickup in when it gets cold. Even with timer it runs the bill up more. So this myth of EV’s running cheap is just a myth. Tires on EV still wear down. Those electric drive motors won’t last forever either. There still bearings and copper windings wearing out when they turn. It all a myth. Plus EV’s are catching fire. Battery’s are tricky little things.

    1. Yes 3-7 miles per kwh is the average mileage…however in Wyoming a kwh costs about $.09 (9 cents).

      Again, you are talking completely anecdotally about something you dont have any idea on.

      Are you implying that ICE cars dont have tires and parts that wear out? An electric vehicle has fewer total moving parts in the whole vehicle than in individual components in an ICE vehicle.

  5. As a bicycle commuter I dread the thought of sharing the road with the incoming wave of lighting fast, whisper quiet, coal powered jalopies……and we all will soon regret the schemes that are concocted by the states and the feds to offset the lost fuel tax revenues.

  6. After oct 1 2022 in colo the 3 stage electric rates will require no charging of EV’s during day time. In fact electricity will be so short that from 3-7 pm daily we will be asked to turn off any and all unnecessary appliances. Even up plugging computers. Friends that have EV tell me their electric bill takes more then a “nudge” up on the bill. They claim their Honda or Toyota ran cheaper. Cold weather is a battery killer as well. Lithium is over $40,000 a ton. Nickel went over $100,000 ton. So battery prices will escalate as well.

    1. I would love to see a source for a single claim you have just made, I looked everywhere and couldnt find a single thing.

      Especially the claim on electric vehicles being more expensive than an ICE, at current gas prices an electric vehicle is about 1/8 the cost per mile.

  7. Final thought…we live in a free market economy where the market dictates business models and innovation. If companies are developing EVs for mass consumption it’s their or other entrepreneurs responsibility to design, build, and operate charging stations not the State or Federal Government. When was the last time you purchased gas from a government subsidized gas station?

  8. These charging stations should not be powered from the existing “fossil fuel” grid. They should be supported with renewable solar and wind power exclusively otherwise what’s the point since the purpose of promoting these vehicles is to “reduce” carbon emissions. I would also advocate a surtax placed on these vehicles to recover state funds that will be used to dispose of the batteries when they need to be replaced every 8 years/100000 miles. Lastly, why should taxpayer dollars be used to provide exclusive services to a vehicle the majority of Wyoming voters can’t afford?

      1. Nice 2022 Toyota Rav4 $33k at Fremont Toyota, Casper. Quite a bit less than the $60k to $80k for your average EV. I call that a significant difference as it relates to affordability. Also, the same people who would purchase the less expensive Rav4 for their family vehicle would probably not buy the high end diesel or massive SUV.

        1. Comparable EV’s can be found from mid 20k up to 40k. You’re inflating the price of EV’s a bit too much. The 60k-80k I referenced was for new diesels or heavy duty trucks, not EV’s…

          Cheers

        2. There are some really good deals on EVs. I got mine because it was cheaper than other comparable new cars. Got like 13k back in rebates. Very good deal

          There is a charge levied on EV users already in Wyoming. We are one of two states (WA was the other last I checked) where EV owners have to pay $200 extra for vehicle registration. This was justified because we don’t pay gas taxes.

  9. Good! Federal subsidies for EVs are but a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of subsidies for oil and gas. Petroleum has 130 years of infrastructure development, of course EV’s wont be just as viable overnight.

    1. Alex. Their comments were made before price of gas rose. But still it all depends on your electric rate per kw. But another hard fact is the environmental cost on EV is more then fossil fuels. It takes 500,000 gallon of potable water to process 1 ton of lithium. Also do you understand where Colbalt is found? Try out of clays along river beds. So a water shed is ruined. Plus child labor is used. Alex. All these metals are mined. Copper is going up as well. Can’t run EV with out a lot of copper. Wind turbines don’t barely get paid for before they need to replaced. Solar panels. Sand has to be melted to make polysilicone. Extreme amount of ectricity is needed to do that. More then Steele. Carbon fiber you say? Asphalt based oil is base material for that. Plastics—takes fossil fuels. Oil is as organic as it gets folks. One time it was plants/marine life and dinosaurs. Mother Earth just recycled it. Don’t rule out oil yet it far from being replaced. Can we do better at things? ABSOLUTLY. Every thing generates a waste. Nothing is free.

  10. I am one of the few ev owners here in Wyoming (non Tesla). This is great news! We Wyomingites drive a lot and this can save folks a lot of money. Worth knowing is that evs have greatly reduced maintenance compared to gas rigs. Still it is hard to go somewhere very remote with an ev. If a two car household, one ev and one gas car or hybrid is a great solution.

  11. Good. This means I won’t have to plug into that slow charge current bush anymore.

    But seriously folks, electric is cheaper than the high priced gas right now. But at some point EV’s are going to have to pay the equivalent of federal and state gas taxes either as an add on tax at the charging station or some form of miles traveled fee. The cost of highway infrastructure and maintenance has to be maintained and it’s only going to keep increasing. In WY we have at least a $300 million shortfall in what WYDOT needs just to keep up.

    Right now we have a heavily taxpayer subsidized EV business with federal and state purchase tax credits, billions of taxpayer money to be spent on charging stations per this article, and EV’s getting a “free ride” from highway usage costs. Appropriate public policy decisions must be based on the true cost of transitioning to a cleaner electrified transportation mode.

  12. I’m thinking this article could have been expanded to include charging times and other questions that make EV use viable in this state. If the Feds are throwing money at it, then maybe it’s time to invest in a vehicle… but first I want to know if I can get to another part of the state at night, in winter, with comfort. warmth, and not adding a great deal of time to my drive.

    1. Depends. I mostly use mine for shorter trips (less than 200 mi round trip). For longer trips one does need to budget more time. A fast charger can get you back up to charge in a bit over an hour or so. EVs are not great for long road trips, but for shorter drives it has been super nice. Battery usage takes a hit if you heat the cabin…worth buying heated seats actually bc it uses way less energy to keep you cozy. EVs are 100% the way to go in a city. Here in Wy they can be inconvenient, though new charging stations will help a TON.

  13. Wyoming has to be near the top of a list of states where EVs just aren’t yet practical. However, efforts like this are certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, battery technology with help bridge that gap in the coming decade. Even so, where is all the additional power generation and power line infrastructure going to come from to make wide spread EV use a reality? In addition, world wide supplies of copper, nickel, and other critical metals just don’t exist to undertake a build out of this magnitude. And environmental permits, allowing new mines to extract those metals, are nearly impossible to obtain. Everyone says it’s great for transportation to go EV, but few have looked at what that actually means to our society and environment. New roads, new mines, new smelters and new power lines on land that is now pristine will be the result. I wonder if we are really willing to do that?

    1. Robert: It sounds like electrical power will need to be run in the Interstate right-of-ways running parallel to the highways throughout Wyoming and most of the nation. EV recharging could have an profound effect on our existing electrical distribution infrastructure – this isn’t a big deal in the populated states since electricity is already everywhere; however, in the wide open west, it could result in extending powerlines to areas which currently don’t have power in the immediate vicinity. Maybe remote EV charging stations will have their own solar cells complete with adequate storage – that would be really awesome. Ranchers commonly use solar in remote locations for livestock wells where the cost of bringing electricity to the groundwater well is prohibitive.

  14. Watch out, Native Americans and South Americans. US oligarchs will soon be invading your reservations and countries to plunder your lithium…all so that yuppies and rich people can buy electromobiles and pretend they’re “doing their part” in regard to saving the planet.

  15. “dozens of new EV charging stations …” ? Wyoming needs hundreds of them.
    Can we please be progressive about social engineering , just this once ? Fossil Fuels are aging out, dying away . We cannot afford the Fossil Thinking that keeps them on life support , all the while preventing real progress. We all know electric vehicles and non-carbon Alternative Energy is the inevitable future. Best we embrace that ahead of time , instead of stumbling forward later and being stupid doing so …

    EV’s are coming. Diesels and gas guzzlers are very very afraid. So be it. For once Wyoming needs to pull its head out of its……uh, Stetson or hardhat .

    1. FOOTNOTE : two nights ago I attended the Cody gathering of these WyDOT electric vehicle forums. It was not encouraging.

      WyDOT seems nearly totally clueless about how to manage the transformation to more electric vehicals on the roads they are responsible for. They are still too heads down with reinventing the Wheel to take on any newfangled technologics at this juncture…

      Wyoming will likely remain a black hole for EV’s for at least the next five years . The EV’s are coming. That cannot be stopped. I wonder what it was like 125 years ago across Wyoming when the first horseless carriages came clanking up the dirt road past the draft horses and buggies and not a gas pump to be seen anywhere . Because that is about where we are right now with Teslas and charging stations. Did we learn anything ?