Dozens of electric vehicles, mostly Nissan Leafs, paraded down Egan Drive Saturday as part of an Earth Day rally organized by local electric vehicle advocates. The rally was put on by the Juneau Electric Vehicle Association and sponsored by several local organizations, including the City and Borough of Juneau.
The rally is meant to highlight the benefits of electric vehicles, according to Duff Mitchell, managing director of Juneau Hydropower — one of the sponsoring organizations.
“Juneau is unique, there’s no other charging system like it in the country,” Mitchell said in a phone interview.
The city of Juneau has partnered with groups like JEVA, Juneau Hydropower and Alaska Electric Light and Power to provide 23 free charging stations around town, making electric vehicles more attractive here, he said.
“Economically they’re really good for Juneau, that’s why you see a lot of people buying used (EVs),” Mitchell said.
In addition to the low cost of charging Juneau’s climate is just right for EV batteries, meaning they last longer here than in other areas of the country.
This year’s rally was led by CBJ’s first electric bus, which was unveiled at an event earlier this month with a video message from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and a speech from Gov. Mike Dunleavy celebrating electric vehicles. Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon said at the event the city intends to eventually have 18 electric buses.
Saturday’s rally featured a number of elected representatives, both local lawmakers and legislators from other districts took part. Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna and Sens. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau; Robert Meyers, R-North Pole, and Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, joined in, as did Rep. Calvin Schrage, I-Anchorage. City officials, including Mayor Beth Weldon and Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss among others were also present.
One electric vehicle owner, Kristi Peel, said she had spent nearly two decades with a Chrysler PT Cruise but had recently upgraded to a late model Chevy Bolt.
“I love it,” she said, noting a particular fondness for the heated steering wheel —not that it was needed on a sunny Saturday.
But while Juneau does have a lot of amenities for electric vehicles, Mitchell said, there are still some issues.
Most of the electric vehicles in Juneau are Nissan Leafs, he said, followed closely by Chevy Bolts with the number of Teslas in town growing. Mitchell estimated there were about 500 electric vehicles in Juneau and said that about 400 of those were Leafs.
But while Nissan’s vehicles are popular, there’s no certified retailer in Juneau, meaning repairs can get expensive as cars need to be shipped to where they can be serviced. Mitchell and other electric vehicle advocates had been in negotiations with Nissan for years and while the company has never said “no,” Mitchell said they similarly haven’t said “yes.”
But the city of Juneau has already worked to help make electric vehicles more attractive locally, Mitchell said, and there were grant programs available to businesses interested in installing charging stations.
The rally is held annually for Earth Day and is one of many such rallies that take place across the country. On Saturday the vehicles left from near Centennial Hall downtown before proceeding to the Mendenhall Valley and ending at Saviko Beach in Douglas.