There was no altar or pulpit, and the Juneau Moose Lodge is hardly a church, but Duff Mitchell did his best to preach the gospel of the electric car to attendees of Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Mitchell, chairman of the Juneau Commission on Sustainability, talked for an hour about the burgeoning number of electric cars in Juneau and the recommendations the commission is making to improve public support for those vehicles.
“Things are changing, and they’re changing rapidly,” Mitchell said. “More charging stations are going to be needed.”
The commission, which held public meetings and collected comments, has compiled a list of recommendations in that regard.
Among the recommendations are changes in parking ordinances and ordinances governing the use of the city’s free charging stations.
While the city last year began limiting charging at the Marine Parking Garage to two hours, Mitchell said the commission is recommending further limits and the collection of a “fair rate … per use” from the city’s nine electric vehicle chargers.
That could be collected by credit card or a coin-operated box, he said.
“I’m not saying this is what’s happening; I’m just saying this is what our research and our hours … have come up for our city leaders,” he said.
There also would be tougher limits on stays in parking spots designated for chargers. Parking in a spot with a fast-charging “Level 3” charger would be limited to 30 minutes. Violators could receive a parking ticket.
Any recommendations would have to go through the city’s public works committee and the Assembly before being implemented.
Much of Mitchell’s presentation was devoted to explaining the way electric vehicle use has grown in the capital city. When Mitchell bought his Nissan Leaf in 2013, he said there were perhaps only six in the capital city. There are now more than 300, plus a dozen Tesla electric vehicles and additional models from other manufacturers.
Juneau’s high gasoline prices and low (by Alaska standards) electric prices make the economics pencil out, he said, angling his sermon toward the interests of the fiscally minded Chamber audience.
According to estimates provided by Mitchell, a prototypical electric car driving 10,000 miles per year will cost about $300-$400 in electricity. An average gasoline-powered vehicle driving the same distance will cost about $1,000 more in Juneau, he said.
“You save the equivalent of a thousand-dollar Permanent Fund Dividend a year (with an electric car),” he said.
Mitchell was asked why the city should pay for electric car chargers. After all, the city doesn’t buy gasoline for cars that use combustion engines.
“Public chargers provide a public safety service,” he said, explaining that someone might be stranded if they run out of electricity while on the road.
In addition, while more than 80 percent of electric car charging happens at home, people in apartments don’t always have access to places for home charging.
Furthermore, he said, older electric vehicles like his don’t have the range for a long round trip on the CBJ’s road network. A drive from the Mendenhall Valley to Eaglecrest Ski Area might not leave a driver with enough electricity to get home. That’s why there’s a charging station there.
Mitchell said the city’s fifth annual electric vehicle roundup will take place at 11 a.m. Sept. 8 in the parking lot next to Coast Guard Station Juneau. Every year since 2013, the city’s electric vehicles have gathered for a group photo to illustrate their spread. The gathering has already outgrown the Mendenhall Wetlands wayside and the Savikko Park parking lot.
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