Conservationist, photographer tests Jackson, Wyoming’s new EV experience

Written by: Thomas Smith, Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities Coalition intern

Tom Mangelsen of Teton County tests out an all-electric Chevy Bolt through Clean Cities Yellowstone-Teton’s EV Experience program, in Jackson, Wyoming, July 29, 2021

Famed wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen tested Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities’ new Electric Vehicle (EV) Experience, which offers members of Lower Valley Energy’s (LVE) Electrical Cooperative in Jackson and Afton, Wyoming a free opportunity to drive an all-electric vehicle.

The program currently hosts a 2020 Chevrolet Bolt with a range of over 250 miles which was plenty for Mangelsen to travel comfortably in the “Last of the Old West.”

Mangelsen, 1994 and 2000 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year, has been photographing Earth’s last great wild places for over 45 years now and had previously been unable to do so with electric vehicles. Now, that is changing.

Electric vehicles now have extended ranges due to battery innovation and improved motor efficiency which makes them more competitive than ever to conventional internal combustion engines (ICE) allowing its passengers to photograph those hard to reach places.

Aside from some of the most rural areas in Wyoming, Mangelsen said he’d take an EV most anywhere for his photography needs.

“The car is fast and fun to drive!” Mangelsen said. 

Despite only driving the car for a couple days, he was quite impressed by the vehicle.

“It’s comfortable and practical,” Mangelsen said.

EV Experience 2020 Chevy Bolt Charging at one of Jackson, Wyoming’s public DC Fast charging stations

Even though some EVs have an increasingly larger range, reaching beyond 300 miles per charge in some vehicles, the lack of EV infrastructure still hinders EV growth.

According to a study from the U.S. Department of Energy, there is a severe lack of DC Fast Charging (DCFC) stations across the nation.

The study recommends having 56 DCFC stations per 1,000 square miles. The current number is about 18 DCFC per 1,000 square miles across all cities and towns nationwide.

For reference, there are currently 960 gasoline stations per 1,000 square miles in U.S. cities.

This is just one of the many obstacles impeding the necessary changes to a more sustainable transportation infrastructure.

Since 2012, Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities (YTCC) has worked on consumer awareness for EVs and EV infrastructure. This year, YTCC was awarded a grant from Teton Conservation District to offer the EV Experience program, allowing LVE co-op members to test-drive an electric vehicle to learn about the technology and determine if it fits their needs.

YTCC partnered with Lower Valley Energy to host the program and Energy Conservation Works to help support program marketing efforts. Currently, dealerships in Jackson and the surrounding areas seldom have electric vehicles for test-drives, so the program will bring more EV awareness to the Teton County community.

In addition to raising awareness for consumers on EV availability, YTCC is focused on petroleum displacement activities in the Greater Yellowstone Region.

YTCC is responsible for several recent projects such as a supporting Grant Teton National Park’s successful grant application to deploy a compressed natural gas (CNG) refuse truck, development of over 50 Level 2 EV charging ports in the greater Yellowstone area and EVs in Wyoming’s national parks.

EV Experience 2020 Chevy Bolt in front of the Grand Tetons in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Locally, Jackson, Wyoming’s greenhouse gas emissions were found to be 64.4% ground transportation in 2019. As the EV population increases and displaces internal combustion engines (ICE), the local greenhouse gas emissions will be significantly reduced.

In addition, Clean Cities Yellowstone-Teton is currently working with local municipalities to improve local EV infrastructure such as introducing more charging stations nearby and potential reserved parking.

Wyoming has the 3rd highest petroleum consumption per capita at 276.5 million BTU (British thermal unit) and the highest release of CO2 per capita by more than double according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2019. These figures are certainly affected by the comparatively small population of the state.

Regardless there are many changes which can be made to decrease the greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact in the state of Wyoming.

YTCC aspires to create an environment which enables and incentivizes a healthy transition to a sustainable and more environmentally friendly future.

Interested in more information about Clean Cities Yellowstone-Teton? Find more here:

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