Cheryl and Henry Jebe pose with their Tesla Model X as Juneau residents meet for the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Cheryl and Henry Jebe pose with their Tesla Model X as Juneau residents meet for the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s electric vehicle total continues to surge

Charge!

Juneau was a different place six years and 88,000 miles ago, said Kyle Cuzzort.

Cuzzort told the Empire that when he bought his first electric vehicle in 2013, there weren’t too many others on the capital city’s roads or many public chargers.

“I think there was a charging station at AEL&P, and that was about it,” Cuzzort said.

Now, he said he knows of local charging stations at grocery stores, parking garages, Eaglecrest Ski Area and even the Alaskan Brewing Co. Tap Room. Cuzzort, who was one of more than a hundred to attend the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Roundup Saturday, said he also sees a lot more electric vehicles out and about, too.

Juneau residents meet for the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau residents meet for the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Duff Mitchell, event organizer, said five years ago there were fewer than 50 electric vehicles in Juneau, but by his count there are now about 400 such vehicles in town. The Empire previously reported there were 175 electric or hybrid vehicles in Juneau in August 2017.

“It really grew quick,” Mitchell said.

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This year, despite heavy rain near the start of the event, there were still dozens of vehicles parked in an Egan Drive parking lot for the roundup. Mitchell said in one of the event’s first years there were maybe about a dozen vehicles present.

“There’s at least that many in each row here,” Mitchell said.

[Photos: Rainy weather doesn’t pull the plug on electric vehicle roundup]

Cuzzort, who drove a truck before making the switch to a Nissan Leaf, said it didn’t take long for him to start proselytizing the benefits of going electric once he got his electric vehicle. He’s unsurprised they’re catching on with others.

“I really don’t want to buy a gas car again,” Cuzzort said.

He said overall, the Leaf has exceeded his expectations — its battery lasted about 80,000 miles instead of an anticipated 30,000 — and led him to drive more frequently since it costs less for him to charge his car than it would to fill up a tank with gas.

Plus, Cuzzort said the same geopolitical tensions that lead to fluctuating prices at the pump generally don’t result in changes to the cost of electricity. He can plug in his car for its nightly charge and expect it to cost the same as it always does.

Mitchell, who also drives a leaf, said it costs him about $15 per month to charge his car.

“This is the future,” Cuzzort said.

Boat wait, there’s more

The roundup wasn’t limited to electric cars, SUVs and crossovers.

Bob Varness brought his electric boat, the Tongass Mist, to the event.

“That’s its name because what we use for boat fuel is a little bit of rain,” Varness joked.

He said he only knows of one other boat like his 25-footer, and that one is located in New Guinea.

Varness’ boat is a custom-built vessel that’s basically an overhaul of a boat he found on Craigslist. Before Varness bought it, the boat had sunk near Prince of Wales Island, so it was available for about $5,000, he said.

It seemed like a good opportunity to expand on the electrified kayaks he’d been experimenting with.

Teri Sears walks between rows of electric vehicles during the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Teri Sears walks between rows of electric vehicles during the sixth annual Electric Vehicle Juneau Roundup on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I thought it’d be a fun one to electrify,” Varness said.

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He pulled out the boat’s old wiring and said he’s put about $60,000 into making it run on electricity.

“You need the budget, and the desire to do it,” Varness said.

He said he’s been pleased with how the boat works, and he’s now designing an electric 50-feet-long boat.

“That’s going to be more of a people mover,” Varness said.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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