Stranded EV Pickup From California A Warning For Others Crossing Wyoming’s Challenging Landscape

The driver of an electric truck from California tried to go from Riverton to Rock Springs in his Rivian. He got there — on the bed of a tow truck.

April 24, 20234 min read

A tow truck takes a Rivian that was stranded while traveling between Riverton and Rock Springs on Friday.
A tow truck takes a Rivian that was stranded while traveling between Riverton and Rock Springs on Friday. (Rodney Rasmusson via Facebook)

The driver of an electric truck from California learned the hard way over the weekend that Wyoming’s difficult terrain creates challenges to driving an electric vehicle here, and what works in California doesn’t always go as smoothly crossing the Cowboy State.

And it’s not just the distance between charging stations. There are other factors to consider. 

Stranded At South Pass

Jake Yeaman, tow truck operator with Specialty Towing, had his first customer with an electric vehicle Friday.

The California driver had a new $90,000 Rivian and was on his way West to Salt Lake City, Yeaman told Cowboy State Daily. 

The driver spoke with a thick Chinese accent, Yeaman said, so much of what he learned about how the man got stranded came from others who spoke to the driver. 

The Rivian driver had run out of juice at the rest stop on Highway 28 on South Pass.

In Riverton, he’d charged his truck up to go to Rock Springs 140 miles away. However, 60 miles into the trip, he found himself running out of juice, well short of the next charging station in Rock Springs. 

Use The App

Patrick Lawson, owner of Wild West EV, lives in Riverton and said he’s driven his own Rivian through that stretch a number of times. He said that the winds, steep terrain and cold can quickly drain the battery.

He would charge up to 200 miles of range before taking that trip. 

“On the way back, though, it’s the opposite. I actually gained 20 miles,” Lawson said. 

Lawson said the truck has a trip planner app that accounts for all the different factors that determine how far a charge will go. 

“It usually accounts for that stuff pretty well,” Lawson said. 

It’s not known if the driver used the app or how he went about planning his charging stops.

Lawson said speed also factors into how far an EV can go on a single charge. If the man was in a hurry, that also might have reduced his range, and it was snowing Friday. 

Rivian Limitations

Yeaman said the insurance company determines the closest location to take a driver to, which in this case was Lander.

The Rivian owner told him that he needed to get to Rock Springs because the charger in Lander would be too slow. 

The Rivian driver might have expected to find a DC fast charger in Rock Springs, as Electrify America is building one, but it’s not operational yet. Lawson said he might have been stuck overnight before he could charge enough to get to the next DC fast charging station. 

Lawson said all the stations in Riverton, Rock Springs and Lander are Level 2 stations. 

The onboard charger on the Rivian is only 48 amps, unlike the 80 amps that faster charging vehicles have, including the new Ford F-150 Lightning. 

The battery in a Rivian is so large, Lawson said, that on the Level 2 charger in Rock Springs, assuming the man was down to about 20% charge, it would have taken three hours to charge up to 80%, Lawson said. 

For these reasons, Lawson explained, Rivians don’t make good electric trucks for a cross-country trip in rural areas. 

“They’re made for overnight charging,” Lawson said. 

No Good Deed

Yeaman posted his customer’s story on Facebook, leaving out any identifying details. He was hoping to provide some good information for other would-be EV drivers trying to cross through central Wyoming. 

“I try to pass on that information to my customers to be helpful,” Yeaman said. 

Instead of gratitude for the advice, it’s received a lot of mocking comments from people. 

“People love to beat up on stuff, but I think they’re really cool-looking trucks,” Yeaman said.

Kevin Killough can be reached at:

Share this article