How can our community most effectively deploy electric vehicles?

At the time of the MT Solar Powered Transportation Initiative, the city of Missoula had a population of 73, 500 people, with around 100,000+ in the Missoula Urban area. Missoula was primarily interested in understanding and advancing electrical transportation, particularly with its transit system’s bus fleet. Further, they hoped to educate the community about the environmental and economic benefits of electric transportation, especially considering additional renewable energy as part of the system and in alignment with local carbon reduction goals. The top priority for analysis revolved around the electric bus depot charging.


Population: 73,500, with 100,000+ in the Missoula urban area. (approx. 2019)

Major energy providers: NorthWestern Energy (investor-owned utility). Missoula County residents who live outside of the city limits are served by Missoula Electric Cooperative (rural electric co-op).

Solar market status: At the time of this Initiative, Missoula was one of the strongest solar markets in Montana. Approximately five solar installation businesses operated out of the greater Missoula area. They were all small businesses with approximately 1-5 employees.

EV market status: At the time of this Initiative, Missoula County ranked first among Montana counties for EV registrations. The University of Montana (based in Missoula) owned and operated two electric buses, including one that featured on-route fast charging, with three more scheduled to arrive in 2020. In 2018 the community transit system, Mountain Line, procured six electric buses which arrived in July 2019, and two more electric buses joined the fleet in 2020.

Other notable community features: Home to the University of Montana. In April of 2019, Missoula passed a resolution to transition to 100% clean electricity by 2030.

Use case top priorities: Electric buses with depot charging and fleet vehicles with workplace charging.

Technical Analysis provided by the Initiative: Performed an analysis of cost, energy, and emissions savings for replacing diesel buses with battery electric buses; electricity cost impacts of different locations for the charging equipment (university vs bus depot, both vs on-route charging); and cost-optimal PV and/or storage sizing and emissions reductions impacts.

More information on the Missoula case study can be found on pg. 54 of the Roadmap. Download the Roadmap.