The first cause for mileage anxiety came as we crested the hill at the Jackson National Fish Hatchery, before we even hit the Grand Teton National Park entrance sign.

Departing home in East Jackson, the green bar estimating the range of the loaner all-electric Chevy Bolt I piloted blinked an estimate of 258 miles until its juice was fully zapped. And there wasn’t much room for error, because the lower loop of Yellowstone National Park we set out on mapped out at an estimated 256 miles. So it was a grim sign to see that our range had sunk 8 miles when we’d barely driven 5.

“We’re already down to 250 miles?” Julia McDonald, my girlfriend and passenger, said as we climbed into view of the Tetons. “We’re going down pretty quick!”

Happily, the little rig that Lower Valley Energy CEO Jim Webb has nicknamed “Zippy” was just finding its stride. The relatively low-speed roads that carve through Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks lend themselves well to efficient driving, and mileage turned out to be no concern at all.

I sat behind the wheel of an electric car for the first time in my life and drove into Yellowstone courtesy of Lower Valley’s new “electric-vehicle experience” program. The joint venture, supported by Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities and Energy Conservation Works, is intended to give the electric utility’s members a taste of what it’s like to commute and recreate with an up-and-coming technology. EVs have less of a climactic impact than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, they are cheaper to operate and they are poised to take over the automobile industry. But they’re also not yet as easy to depend on in northwest Wyoming, where charging infrastructure is still somewhat lacking.

Picking up Zippy from Lower Valley staffers Brian Tanabe and Amy Walton on Friday, I mentioned the idea of going for a Yellowstone cruise.

“Do it,” Tanabe told me. “A large part of this program is we want people to learn about electric vehicles, and we want them to test out the range and range-anxiety issues. Give it a shot. Push it.”

So I did just that, ditching my normal Honda Ridgeline pickup for the weekend and relying solely on the Bolt. To be blunt, I loved it.

Admittedly, I was biased in favor of electric vehicles going into the experience and find them personally alluring because swapping my gas truck for an EV would probably be the most effective way for me to reduce my personal carbon footprint. Jackson Hole residents do a poor job of contributing to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A 2019 inventory found that there had been a 17% surge in carbon emissions over the past decade, outpacing population growth and penciling out so that each Teton County resident contributed 21.2 tons of emissions annually — more than a third higher than the national average. And I’m a part of that problem, driving some 18,000 miles a year and burning up 700-plus gallons of gas that contribute 7 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. And that’s just my personal impact from ground transportation.

So it was really heartening to see just how much more efficient the Bolt was than a gas-powered vehicle, both from a climate and pocketbook standpoint.

Read the full story in this week's edition of the News&Guide. Support community journalism and subscribe for just $1 a week. 

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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