There’s only so much road to drive on in Juneau. For resident John Bush, that’s all the more reason to transition to electric.
“I don’t buy gas, yeah — it never gets old,” he said, laughing.
In November, Bush traded his Ford F-350 “gas hog” and Toyota Corolla commuter vehicle for a Ford F-150 Lightning, Ford’s electric version of its popular full-size truck model. Bush had it barged to Juneau from Tacoma, Washington, after driving it there from Nevada. Despite the hassle of getting it here and the vehicle’s steep price tag — $79,000 — Bush said he has no regrets.
“If I were to buy a gas truck it would cost about the same,” he said. “I can still use this to tow my boat for my boat business.”
Bush was one of the dozens of electric vehicle owners who attended Juneau’s EV and E-bike Roundup downtown Saturday afternoon. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the capital city participating in the Drive Electric Week celebrations across the country. On Saturday, with no cruise ships and the sun shining down, more than 100 people attended the Juneau event, according to Duff Mitchell, the event organizer.
Mitchell said Juneau has widely been recognized as a leader in the state — and country — for its commitment to electric vehicle infrastructure and emphasis on bringing those vehicles to the capital city. He estimated about 800 electric vehicles are currently driven on Juneau’s streets.
“We are in a climate where it’s really good on batteries — it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold — it’s kind of like the Goldilocks zone,” he said. “The batteries love it, and that blesses us, because if you buy an electric vehicle you know it’s gonna last a while.”
Mitchell said with the rapidly growing technology of electric vehicles the cost of building one appears to be lowering. He said he hopes that means the transition from gas to electricity can become more accessible to people with lower incomes in the coming years and the event is a great opportunity for residents who are curious to check out what’s already available in Juneau.
“This is a really good opportunity for people that aren’t already electric vehicle owners to come down, kick the tires, but also talk to people and ask about their experience,” he said.
Though electric vehicles dominated most of the parking lot where the event took place along Egan Drive, John McConnochie, co-owner of Cycle Alaska, was also there showing off a variety of e-bikes for sale in Juneau. He said similarly to electric vehicles in recent years, he’s noticed a boom in demand for e-bikes.
“We sell more and more each year,” he said.
McConnochie attributes some of the surge to recent innovations made with batteries and motor reliability, noting things are only going to get better as time passes. He said e-bikes aren’t only for getting to places quicker or easier — they can allow people who are aging or who have medical reasons to still go out and exercise with the assistance that an e-bike provides.
“We know a gentleman who was an avid cyclist with MS (multiple sclerosis), and he lived in the (Mendenhall) Valley and loved riding downtown commuting to work, but then had stopped,” he said. “But now with an e-bike and that assist, he can make it down and back home.”
Bob Varnes was at the event alongside his electric boat, the Tongass Mist. The 25-foot vessel once sat at the bottom of the ocean near Prince of Wales Island, but on Saturday the now fully electrified custom-built boat was one of the main attractions.
I rebuilt it to be pure electric — so there’s no backup generation on it or anything,” he said. “It’s designed to be recharged at the harbor.”
Varnes said he thinks his boat is the first of its kind not just in Juneau, but across Alaska. Following the build in 2018, Varnes created and now manages Tongass Rain Electric Cruise, a company that both raises awareness about renewable energy and technology in marine environments and conducts electric motor retail and electric conversion consulting.
Varnes is also involved in a few rebuilds in the works right now in Alaska, notably a commercial trolling vessel in Sitka that is transitioning to electric, anticipated to be completed by spring. For people in Juneau who are interested in transitions, he was showing off propulsion systems and electric products at the event.
“Electric boats are taking off. It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” he said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651) 528-1807.