A Tesla’s Trek: NW Montana to Salt Lake (Wrap Up)

Tesla Trek - Wrap Up

By: Wade Harris, FEC Research Analyist

I returned from Salt Lake late last week, and I wanted to give an overview of the trip and provide a few takeaways.

Trip Overview

  • The overall trip was 1,659 miles, not including miscellaneous driving in and around Billings and Salt Lake during my quick visits at each city.
  • The driving time was 22:16, and the charging time on the road was 2:48, and the cost of fuel was $53.48. (Note that I also charged at my parents’ home in Billings and the hotel in Salt Lake during my stay. The compensation that I made for that energy was treating my parents to dinner out one night, and paying for parking at the hotel. It always works out somehow.)
  • I drove from Kalispell to Billings, 458 miles door to door, in the time of 7:12 including rest and charging stops. I stopped at Clearwater Junction for a 4 minute rest break, and twice to charge (Butte and Bozeman) for 17 minutes each time. The cost of using the Tesla Supercharger network was $13.42 for this leg of the trip.
  • I drove from Billings to Salt Lake, 559 miles door to door, in the time of 8:36 including charging stops. I stopped 5 times to charge (Bozeman, West Yellowstone, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Tremonton) for an average of 13 minutes each time. Stopping more often gave me the opportunity to use the restroom and stretch my legs, (my MD would be pleased). The cost of using the Tesla Supercharger network was $18.75 for this leg of the trip.
  • I drove from Salt Lake to Kalispell, 642 miles door to door, in the time of 10:05 including rest and charging stops. I stopped 4 times to charge (Pocatello, Lima, Butte, and Missoula) for an average of 17 minutes each time. I also stopped for an extra 47 minutes at my favorite pizza spot, Biga Pizza in Missoula. The cost of using the Tesla Supercharger network was $21.31 for this leg of the trip.
  • I saved $145.60 in fuel costs on the trip. It would have cost $199.08 to fuel a new gasoline powered car with an average fuel economy rating of 25 MPG to make the same trip purchasing gasoline at the present average price of $3.00/gallon.


  • Family always comes first. It’s good to know that if I need to hurry to Billings to care for my aging parents, I can make very good time, (but I will probably charge a little longer in Butte, skip Bozeman, and instead stop in at the Supercharger in Big Timber so that I have more range left when I get to Billings.)
  • I am minimizing my contribution to pollutants in the air that we breathe, especially here in the northwest where our power comes from hydroelectric dams fed from snowmelt in our mountains. (We might as well get some benefit from having to endure the winter that seemed it never wanted to end!) In fact, of all the EVs that drove to the Salt Lake Drive to CONNECT EVent, I had the lowest average CO2/mile by a convincing margin since I recharged exclusively in the Northwest region.
  • Tesla has built the answer to utilizing electric cars for more than just a commuter car. It is their Supercharger network, the strategically placed high power, high speed, low cost chargers that don’t take any more time than a typical rest and refuel break in a gasoline powered car. (Note that Tesla is planning to add a Supercharging location within our service territory in 2018!)
  • Tesla’s supercharging network also proves that with adequate charging infrastructure, electric vehicles are just as convenient as petroleum fueled vehicles. Tesla has leveraged their network to hold a competitive electric vehicle advantage. Time will tell how the evolving charging infrastructure will benefit the other car manufacturers and take market share from the California startup tech company.

Thanks for following along!

– Wade