California Tesla Driver Caught Stealing Electricity In Rural Montana

Estimated read time 3 min read

He got busted in a small town!

Most people wouldn’t dare drive their Tesla or other EV into one of the most remote corners of Montana, but that’s exactly what Chad Lauterbach and his girlfriend, Allis Markham, both of Los Angeles, California, did recently. Markham, a taxidermist of apparently national renown, made the drive to southeastern Montana in a Tesla to volunteer at the 400-person town’s dinosaur museum, something she’d done in the past but with a different vehicle.

Learn how a report claims Tesla is fudging its driving range claims here.

Normally, Markham drives an ’89 Land Cruiser, a respectable off-roader that doesn’t get good gas mileage at all. Not having another vehicle, she decided taking Lauterbach’s Tesla Model Y was a good idea. It was not, in fact, a good idea. And it landed them on the front page of the local newspaper for “stealing” electricity.

As detailed out in hilarious detail by Montana Free Press, the Tesla tried warning the couple they were heading to a charging desert where finding somewhere to plug in would be difficult at best. Upon arriving in Ekalaka, Lauterbach found an RV-style outlet on a utility pole in the middle of town. Remarking on his luck, he plugged the EV in and they went about their business at the dinosaur museum. His girlfriend warned him there would likely be trouble, but he brushed off her worries.

Little did he know that scofflaw move would cause a big stir in the remote town. Someone snapped a photo, which was smack dab on the front page in short order. The local newspaper couldn’t even identify the Model Y as a Tesla, simply referring to it as an unknown electric vehicle instead. Needless to say, Markham got to gloat a little at being right about the electricity theft being a big deal.

The local electricity co-op turned off the power outlet to stop more piracy. Concerned, Markham rushed over to the tiny utility office, telling the front desk clerk she was there to settle “the crimes” committed by her boyfriend. As the staff laughed in her face, she probably realized Ekalaka was a far cry from Los Angeles.

They told her at first the theft was no big deal, but Markham insisted on paying for the electricity, probably in part because they needed another charge to get back to Wyoming where an actual EV charging station was located. That transaction had to be done in cash with a handwritten receipt. Welcome to a small town.

Lest anyone think Ekalaka is just completely backwards, apparently people have talked about setting up a single EV charger in the town in the past. Since it’s such a backroads town (seriously, look it up on a map) they rightly believe not many people would even use it. But the electricity co-op manager told Montana Free Press that sometime “in the next decade” they might have to “do something.” Time, like vehicles, definitely moves differently in remote areas.

Note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Chad Lauterbach is the taxidermist.

Image via Chad Lauterbach

Steven Symes

Steven Symes is an accomplished automotive journalist with a passion for all things related to cars. His extensive knowledge and love for the automotive world shine through in his writing, which covers a diverse range of topics.

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