Stakeholder Spotlight: Michael Donch with the Custer Gallatin NF

Michael moved back to Bozeman in 2001 and started managing the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s green fleet of vehicles. When he started as Fleet Manager there was only a singular hybrid vehicle in the fleet, a 2005 Ford Hybrid Escape that was driven. In 2008 and in 2010, he added three more Hybrid Escape’s to the fleet. And in 2011, Michael requested grant money to buy a Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and to purchase solar panels to provide electricity to power the Volt. This vehicle greatly decreased the amount of coal burned for fuel and the solar panels installed generated 3,830 kWh of energy in 2018, thanks to Michael’s efforts. This amount of solar energy generated is equivalent to 2.7 metric tons of CO2 or 305 gallons of gas saved. At this time the solar panels have been up for 80 months and have generated about 25,600 kWh of electricity. Furthermore, the energy generated is being returned to the grid and then back to the green fleet vehicles through overnight charging. Michael has continued to apply for alternative fuel funding and has been awarded money each year to upgrade the Custer Gallatin National Forest’s green vehicles. Overall, the Custer Gallatin National Forest is one of the greenest fleets in the National Forest system with five hybrid vehicles and soon five plug-in hybrid vehicles as well. Michael Donch has been very successful as a Fleet Manager and has made steps towards creating an environmentally conscious fleet of vehicles for the Custer Gallatin National Forest. It is a common misconception that electric vehicles are not a viable option in our region and a 4-wheel drive truck is always needed, however, we are fortunate to have the Forest Service in our region effectively using electric vehicles. If the agency that serves the rugged national forest can successfully use electric vehicles, this encourages all to reexamine what can work for them.


“Technological Tour de Force”

by Amy Snelling

Can the high distinction of “Best Overall Car” from Consumer Reports really belong to a vehicle with no emissions? Why, yes, yes it can. The revolutionary Tesla Model S has received global praise and according to Consumer Reports’ test rating, “it outscores every other car.”

Read more

Tesla Model S Drives Over Teton Pass!

It has recently come to our attention that there is a Tesla in the Jackson area! The owner’s nephew, Ted Kidd, took it for a ride over Teton Pass and documented the entire trip.

This trip is a great example of regenerative breaking and how mountain driving can work in favor of electric vehicles’ range.

First, what is regenerative braking?


If you are coasting down hill in a vehicle, your wheels accumulate a large amount of kinetic energy.  As you get going too fast, and need to brake, all of that kinetic energy is lost as heat to the atmosphere.   In electric vehicles or hybrids, the electric motor runs backwards to brake the car when you press on the brake pedal.  As the motor runs backwards, it acts as an electric generator, and produces electricity that goes straight to the car’s battery.  So every time a hybrid or electric vehicle brakes, it is essentially charging its own battery.

The following pictures are of the dashboard on the Tesla as it drives from Jackson, WY to Victor, ID and back. It is a perfect illustration of how regenerative braking works.


1The Tesla starts out in Wilson with 263 miles of electric power.

3Right as the climb begins, the Tesla has 245 miles of range.



At the top of the pass, the Tesla has 220 miles of range left. Going up the steep incline decreased the efficiency of the motor and it lost 25 miles of range over a 6 mile driving period.


5The drive down from the top of the pass to Victor was 10 miles, but did not decrease the range at all.  In fact, driving and braking 10 miles down the pass added 5 miles of range to the Tesla, bringing it back up to 225.

6After driving around Idaho for a while, they headed back up the pass with 179 miles of range.


7Following the long, steep climb up the Idaho side of Teton Pass, there was 149 miles of range remaining by the time they reached the top.


8And the back down into Wilson added 10 miles back onto the range due to the regenerative braking! Ending range: 157.


Driving an electric or hybrid vehicle up steep mountain passes can decrease the efficiency because you are not driving ‘ideally’.  However, this Tesla trip shows that the effects of regenerative braking negate some of the less than ideal effects of driving up a steep grade.  Overall, the Tesla traveled 110 miles and only lost 14 miles off the “ideal” range.

Now, let’s bring more electric cars to mountain towns!

For more information about electric vehicles and charging visit our vehicles and fuels pages.

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