Montana Department of Environmental Quality About Us Permitting & Operator Assistance Public Participation

Alternative Fuels & Transportation

Program Overview

The alternative fuels and transportation sectors in Montana are dynamic and ongoing areas of focus in the Energy Bureau. The Energy Bureau’s clean transportation program priorities include: leveraging public and private sector investment in the electric vehicle market in Montana, coordinating electric vehicle infrastructure deployment across the Intermountain West, reducing diesel emissions in the transportation sector; and advancing clean transportation innovation and fueling alternatives.

National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Montana’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan was developed as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, signed by the president on November 15, 2021, which allocates $43 million to the state over the next 5 years to build out electric vehicle fast-charging infrastructure along key travel corridors in the state.

Alternative Fuels

Alternative fuels are any fuel other than gasoline and diesel that is used to power motor vehicles of any size. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992 defines an alternative fuel as:

  • Biodiesel (B100)
  • Natural gas and liquid fuels domestically produced from natural gas
  • Propane (liquefied petroleum gas)
  • Electricity
  • Hydrogen
  • Blends of 85% or more of methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols with gasoline or other fuels
  • Methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols
  • Coal-derived, domestically produced liquid fuels
  • Fuels (other than alcohol) derived from biological materials
  • P-Series fuels

The U.S. Department of Energy may designate other fuels as alternative fuels, provided that the fuel is substantially non-petroleum, yields substantial energy security benefits, and offers substantial environmental benefits.

Alternative Fuels Resources:

Biodiesel is a renewable, biodegradable fuel manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. Biodiesel meets both the biomass-based diesel and overall advanced biofuel requirement of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Biodiesel is a liquid fuel often referred to as B100 or neat biodiesel in its pure, unblended form. Like petroleum diesel, biodiesel is used to fuel compression-ignition engines. See the table for biodiesel's physical characteristics.

Biodiesel performance in cold weather depends on the blend of biodiesel, the feedstock, and the petroleum diesel characteristics. In general, blends with smaller percentages of biodiesel perform better in cold temperatures. Typically, regular No. 2 diesel and B5 perform about the same in cold weather. Both biodiesel and No. 2 diesel have some compounds that crystallize in very cold temperatures. In winter weather, fuel blenders and suppliers combat crystallization by adding a cold flow improver. For the best cold weather performance, users should work with their fuel provider to ensure the blend is appropriate.

In Montana, biodiesel production facilities that produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil and that produce more than 2,500 gallons of biodiesel per year must obtain a Class II Solid Waste Management Systems License. The license must be renewed annually.

Biodiesel production facilities that produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil and who produce less than 2,500-gallons per year for personal use must obtain a Small Biodiesel Production Facility license. The license is free, but requires an annual license renewal.

Biodiesel Resources:

Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from various plant materials collectively known as "biomass." More than 98% of U.S. gasoline contains ethanol, typically E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), to oxygenate the fuel, which reduces air pollution.

Ethanol is also available as E85 (or flex fuel), which can be used in flexible fuel vehicles, designed to operate on any blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 83%. Another blend, E15, is approved for use in model year 2001 and newer vehicles.

Ethanol Resources:

Also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane autogas, propane is a clean-burning alternative fuel that's been used for decades to power light-, medium-, and heavy-duty propane vehicles.

Propane is a three-carbon alkane gas (C3H8). It is stored under pressure inside a tank as a colorless, odorless liquid. As pressure is released, the liquid propane vaporizes and turns into gas that is used in combustion. An odorant, ethyl mercaptan, is added for leak detection. (See fuel properties).

Propane has a high-octane rating, making it an excellent choice for spark-ignited internal combustion engines. If spilled or released from a vehicle, it presents no threat to soil, surface water, or groundwater. Propane is produced as a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. It accounts for about 2% of the energy used in the United States. Of that, less than 3% is used for transportation. Its main uses include home and water heating, cooking and refrigerating food, clothes drying, and powering farm and industrial equipment. The chemical industry also uses propane as a raw material for making plastics and other compounds.

Propane Resources:



Electric Bus
Eligible Replacement Bus/Engine Technology Battery Electric School Bus School Bus with Certified Low NOx Engine Propane or New Diesel Bus with Emissions Model Year 2016 or Newer
Eligible existing bus engine model years to be replaced 1996 - 2019 1996 - 2019 1996 - 2009
DEQ Clean School Bus funding limits 45% or $148,500 whichever is less (includes charging infrastructure) 35% or $31,500 whichever is less 25% or $22,500 whichever is less
Required school district/applicant cost share 55% 65% 75%
Fueling infrastructure eligible for funding? Yes - dedicated electric bus charging infrastructure No No


FY 2019 State Clean Diesel Grant Program Awards

Bus Awards
Number of Buses School Technology Total Award Amount
1 Alberton New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Belt New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Bigfork New Diesel School Bus $22,500
8 Billings New Diesel School Bus $180,000
2 Browning New Low NOx Propane School Bus $63,000
1 Cayuse Prairie New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Charlo New Low NOx Propane School Bus $22,500
2 Columbia Falls New Low NOx Propane School Bus $63,000
2 Corvallis New Low NOx Propane School Bus $45,000
1 Custer New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 East Helena New Diesel School Bus $22,500
3 Frenchtown New Low NOx Propane and New Diesel School Bus $85,500
1 Grass Range New Diesel School Bus $22,500
2 Hamilton New Diesel School Bus $45,000
1 Harlem New Gasoline School Bus $22,500
2 Huntley Project New Low NOx Propane and New Diesel School Bus $54,000
3 Kalispell New Low NOx Propane School Bus $94,500
1 Libby New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Livingston New Diesel School Bus $22,500
2 Lone Rock New Diesel School Bus $45,000
1 Twin Bridges New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Vaughn New Diesel School Bus $22,500

Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA)

Authority for the Clean Diesel program comes from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act that is part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Thirty percent of the DERA appropriation is allocated to the states to fund programs for voluntary clean diesel projects that reduce emissions. Montana’s State DERA grant formed the Montana Clean Diesel Program.

The goals of the Montana Clean Diesel Program are to:

  • Gain acceptance of the need to reduce diesel emissions in poor air quality areas;
  • Gain future support for diesel emissions and fuel reduction activities;
  • Demonstrate reductions in emissions and fuel use with new technology.

Visit the Clean Air Zone Montana for information about the health implications of diesel exhaust and what schools are doing to minimize these impacts.

What is Clean Air Zone Montana?


Clean Air Zone Montana is a statewide program aimed at reducing children’s exposure to school bus diesel exhaust by discouraging idling of buses and other vehicles and encouraging use of alternative fuels in school buses. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has initiated Clean Air Zone Montana to provide Montana Schools with a comprehensive toolkit to reduce the impacts of vehicle emissions outside their schools.

The goals of Clean Air Zone Montana are to:

  • Provide a healthier environment for Montana’s school children by reducing emissions from diesel-powered school buses.
  • Improve air quality in and around school buildings and throughout local communities.   

What are the health impacts of diesel exhaust?

Diesel exhaust aggravates asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, according to the U.S. EPA, and exacerbates allergies. Based on human exposure studies, as well as lab data, EPA has concluded that diesel is a probable carcinogen. While dropping off or picking students up from school and waiting, idling buses and vehicles emit fine particulate matter and other air pollutants, which can impact air quality and public health. Bus idling and bus queuing can further increase the concentration of particulates both inside school buses and inside nearby buildings. Although breathing diesel exhaust may not measurably impair lung function in adults, recent studies demonstrate that particulate pollution can impair the development of lungs in children. Fortunately, schools can take several steps to reduce diesel exhaust from school uses.

What can schools do to minimize the health impacts of school bus diesel exhaust?

  • Reduce Exposure
    • Establish guidelines to reduce or eliminate idling of buses and other vehicles.
    • Park buses away from children’s gathering places and building intake vents.
    • Inform parents and other vehicle users of no-idling policies in from of schools, especially during periods when large numbers of children are present (pick-up and drop-off times).
    • Create a Clean Air Zone around your school to comprehensively address children’s exposure to air pollution.
  • Use Alternative Fuels - Using cleaner fuels is one way existing buses can be upgraded to pollute less. Possible alternative fuel options include:
    • Biodiesel Fuels: Biodiesel, a mix of diesel fuel with vegetable oil-based products, can reduce fine particulate emissions by up to 10 percent and also may reduce the toxicity of diesel emissions. A standard diesel engine can operate on biodiesel mixtures of up to 20 percent without physical modifications. The incremental cost of 20 percent biodiesel typically ranges from 12-20 cents per gallon.
    • Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel: ULSD has significantly less sulfur content, which results in up to 10 percent reductions of fine particulates, and can be used in any diesel vehicle. The additional cost of ULSD ranges from 8-20 cents per gallon. Montana implemented ULSD in October 2006.
  • Joining the Clean Air Zone Montana Program - Take a pledge to “Get into the Zone.” Your school will receive:
    • A Clean Air Zone Toolkit, including sample clean air zone strategies and guidelines for adopting no-idle zones outside your schools, signs to mark no-idle zones, sample letters to parents, and information for bus drivers.
    • Technical and policy assistance
    • Information on possible funding opportunities

Additional Resources:

  • Clean School Bus
    • The web site of the Environment Protection Agency includes information on idle reduction, retrofitting, and replacement. You can also request free outreach materials from the EPA to help with your program.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy
    • The U.S. department of Energy website provides information on using alternative fuels in school bus fleets. Read several success stories of school bus fleet transitions to alternative fuels.
  • The American Lung Association
    • Read about the health effects of diesel emissions and possible solutions.

An electric vehicle is one that is powered in full or in part by an electric motor or motors and uses electric energy stored in rechargeable batteries to propel the vehicle. There are many types and models of electric vehicles available today. Categories of electric vehicles include:

Electric vehicle (EV) or Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV): these vehicles derive all power from an electric motor and use energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. These vehicles do not have an internal combustion engine. Examples of electric vehicles include all Tesla models, the Chevrolet Bolt, and the Nissan Leaf.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV): a vehicle that uses an electric motor for propulsion but also has an internal combustion engine onboard to provide power for a generator, which maintains a minimum charge level on a battery. PHEVs have an electric range of 20-50 miles depending on the model which include cars like the Chevrolet Volt, the Ford Fusion Energi, and the Toyota Prius Prime

Electric Vehicle Resources:

Charging Stations

Electric vehicle charging stations are also known as electric vehicle supply equipment. There are three different levels of charging stations:

Earth Day 2020 Interviews with Electric Vehicle Owners

Nordic BrewWorks

For the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we interviewed seven Montanans and one business owner who have chosen to purchase electric vehicles. We asked about motivating factors, level of satisfaction, and other questions.

Read more about the electric vehicle owners:

Like what you see? Visit our other Energy Success Stories.

Photo of Williams Electric Vehicle  Photo of Rowntree Electric Vehicle

Photo of Coulter Electric Vehicle  Photo of Kirk Electric Vehicle  


Alternative Fuels & Transportation Contacts

Section Supervisor
Kyla Maki (406) 444-6459

Energy Resource Professional
Neal Ullman (406) 444-6582


Sign up for email updates from the DEQ Energy - Clean Transportation Topic. 

Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Settlement

Volkswagon Settlement Background

In January 2016 the United States and the State of California filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen (VW) alleging it had manufactured diesel cars sold and operated in the U.S. with systems intended to defeat emissions tests. These systems allowed vehicles to emit nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution at levels up to 40 times the amounts allowed under the Clean Air Act.

The total VW settlement is over $15.7 billion dollars across three categories:

  1. Vehicle Buyback and Modification: $10.8 billion for buyback or emission control modifications on at least 85 perfect of the affected vehicles.
  2. Environmental Mitigation Trust: $2.9 billion in an account to be used for "Eligible Mitigation Actions" to achieve reductions of mobile NOx emissions. Eligible beneficiaries of this trust account include each of the 50 states and American Indian Tribes.
  3. Zero Emission Vehicle Investment: $2 billion for investments in zero emissions vehicles and infrastructure.


Montana will receive $12.6 million from the environmental mitigation trust. This trust fund will be used for projects that are Eligible Mitigation Actions under the trust that mitigate NOx emissions in the transportation sector. Projects eligible for funding include but are not limited to diesel trucks, buses, freight switcher locomotives, and airport ground support equipment. Vehicle replacements, engine upgrades, and retrofits are eligible for funding. States can also use up to 15 percent of their funds for light duty electric vehicle charging stations available to the public or located at workplaces or multi-unit housing locations.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is the state’s lead agency to oversee how Montana’s $12.6 million allocation is distributed and spent. DEQ will be consulting with other agencies and members of the public on how best to spend these funds on eligible projects to maximize air quality and other economic and environmental benefits. Prior to receiving funding, the agency must submit a Beneficiary Mitigation Plan describing how the state plans to use the funds. To develop the Plan, DEQ is seeking public input on state goals, criteria, focus areas and other issues associated with spending and disbursing the environmental mitigation trust funds.

To view information and additional resources from other states involved in the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement please visit the VW Settlement Clearinghouse page. This page includes contact information and other state’s progress on their mitigation plans.

Settlement Documents

  • Approximately 2,800 Montanans are registered as owning or leasing affected vehicles. The additional NOx emissions from the affected vehicles is between .07 tons and .26 tons per day.

Fast Charge Your Ride

Applicant County Grant Amount Applicant Cost-share Type of Electric Vehicle Charging Station (EVCS)Number of EVCS
GBP Enterprises, LLC Park $63,915.60 $15,978.90 1 DCFC
Missoula Electric Cooperative Missoula $90,000 $23,823 1DCFC, 1 Level 2
NorthWestern Energy Beaverhead, Big Horn, Cascade, Lewis & Clark, Pondera, Powell, Ravalli, Sweetgrass, Yellowstone $686,880 $171,720 9 DCFC, 9 Level 2
Flathead Electric Cooperative   Flathead & Lincoln $155,996.64 2 DCFC, 1 Level 2

Charge Your Ride

Applicant County Grant Amount Applicant Cost-share Type of Electric Vehicle Charging Station (EVCS)Number of EVCS  
City of Billings Parking Division Yellowstone $25,500 $25,000 Dual-port Level 2 3
City of Helena Lewis & Clark $17,000 $14,500 Dual-port Level 2 2
Gallatin Import Group Gallatin $34,000 $31,977 Single-port Level 2, DCFC 2
GBP Enterprises, LLC Park $8,500 $19,824 Single-port Level 2 1
Montana Dept. of Administration Lewis & Clark $26,000 Dual-port Level 2 4
Mountain View Meadows, LLC Lewis & Clark $8,500 $7,715 Dual-port Level 2 1
MTB Management, Inc Missoula $29,788 $7,447 DCFC 1
MTB Management, Inc Lake $29,868 $7,467 DCFC 1
University of Montana Missoula $34,000 $33,361 Dual-port Level 2 4
University of Montana Beaverhead $8,500 $6,796 Dual-port Level 2 1
Town of Virginia City Madison $8,500 $3,803 Dual-port Level 2 1
City of Billings Logan International Airport Yellowstone $25,500 $11,614.11 Dual-port Level 2 3
City of Hamilton Ravalli $8,500 $21,687 Dual-port Level 2 1

Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Clean School Bus Program

Number of Buses School Technology Total Award Amount
1 Alberton New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Belt New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Bigfork New Diesel School Bus $22,500
2 Browning New Low NOx Propane School Bus $63,000
1 Cayuse Prairie New Diesel School Bus $22,500
1 Charlo New Low NOx Propane School Bus $22,500
2 Corvallis New Low NOx Propane School Bus $45,000
1 Custer New Diesel School Bus $22,500
2 Frenchtown New Propane School Bus $63,000
2 Huntley Project New Low NOx Propane and New Diesel School Bus $54,000
1 Libby New Diesel School Bus


1 Livingston New Diesel School Bus $22,500
2 Lone Rock New Diesel School Bus $45,000
4 Billings New Diesel School Bus $90,000

Mountain Line Transit Bus Replacement

University of Montana Transit Bus Replacement

Clean Truck, Bus, & Airport Equipment Program

Applicant County Grant Amount Applicant Cost-Share Technology
City of Helena Lewis & Clark $500,000 $273,258 1 electric street sweeper
Town of Superior Mineral $500,000 $123,758 1 electric street sweeper
Missoula County Airport Authority Missoula $236,095​ $101,185 3 electric belt loaders, 1 electric push back tractor
East Helena Public Schools Lewis & Clark $339,202.70 $59,861 1 electric school bus
Havre Public Schools Hill $745,266.50 $111,789.58 2 electric school buses
First Student Yellowstone $3,243,538.16 $572,389.04 8 electric school buses
Total $5,564,102.36 (82%) $1,243,240.62 (18%)


Project Tools

The AFLEET Tool - AFLEET stands for Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET). This Excel-based tool allows anyone to input simple fleet/vehicle information data and compare emissions, cost of ownership and other outputs.

Mitigation Activity Eligible for Funding:

  • Eligible Medium Trucks - Class 4-7 Freight Trucks
  • Eligible Buses - Class 4-8 School Bus, Shuttle Bus, or Transit Bus
  • Eligible Large Trucks - Class 8 Local Freight Trucks
  • Airport Ground Support Equipment
  • Ferries/Tugs
  • Forklifts
  • Railroad Freight Switchers
  • Charging Stations for light duty electrical vehicles
    • Up to 15% of total state allocation
  • Administration Marketing and Education
    • Up to 15% of total state allocation

*Click on the drop-downs below to view criteria for each category*

All dates are estimates and subject to change. Check back for new funding opportunities.

DEQ Mitigation Plan
Event Approximate Time Frame
Trust Effective Date (TED)  October 2, 2017
DEQ finalized mitigation plan and filed with Trustee November 2018
80 percent of VW funds must be obligated October 2, 2027
VW Trust dissolves October 2, 2032

Montana Semiannual Reports

Volkswagen News and Information Mailing List

DEQ will be sending out all information related to the Volkswagen settlement, development of the mitigation plan, information and updates on our VW settlement interested parties list.

  • Click sign up for updates
  • Enter your name and email address and click submit
  • Scroll down and check the Volkswagen Settlement Interested Parties box
  • Click submit
  • VW Settlement Clearinghouse - This website gathers resources and information from states on the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust settlement. It also includes contact information and state progress on their mitigation plans.
  • AFLEET Tool - AFLEET stands for Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET). This Excel-based tool allows anyone to input simple fleet/vehicle information data and compare emissions, cost of ownership and other outputs.


Electric Charging Station | Seeley Lake, Montana