In a matter of months, the city will be equipped with enough electric vehicle charging stations for a driver to make it from one end of Juneau’s main road to the other and back again without a second thought.
A $25,000 grant the City and Borough of Juneau and the Juneau Community Foundation won in September was matched by local donors and will be used to purchase charging stations for Juneau’s growing population of electric vehicles, said Alec Mesdag, project champion and Alaska Electric Light and Power energy management specialist.
The Electric Vehicle Initiative, headed up by Mesdag and facilitated by the Juneau Economic Development Council, was tasked by the foundation to develop a plan for the grant money. Mesdag said that with the approximately $50,000 they have to work with, the group will be able to purchase six to eight charging stations. Five charging station locations have been identified so far: Sandy Beach, Eaglecrest Ski Area, Eagle Beach State Recreation Area, the University of Alaska Southeast and a parking garage downtown.
The locations were chosen based on the amount of traffic they receive and their proximity to one another, Mesdag said. The goal was to situate them so an electric car driver could complete the longest distance possible in Juneau without worrying about running out of charge, he said, “no matter where you live, no matter where you start your trip.” Each charging station will have two connectors — two cars can charge at the same station at once.
“If we put a charging station here does it complement where we already have a charging station or plan to build a charging station?” Mesdag said.
The group is trying to time the charging station installations with construction projects already happening at the sites.
“Anywhere a site can work it into a project they’re already doing, it lowers the cost,” Mesdag said.
Although the grant money will pay for the charging stations themselves, the facilities housing the stations will pay for their installations, as well as the utility bill that comes along with them, he said.
Rob MacGregor, a director of Canadian transportation electrification company Sun Country Highway Ltd., visited Juneau to attend the JEDC’s Innovation Summit last week. He said charging station installation costs between $500 and $5,000, depending on the project.
MacGregor’s company electrified Canada’s highways and hopes to be considered when it comes time for Juneau to purchase its charging stations, he said. JEDC Technology Transfer Manager Zach Wilkinson, who helps lead the Electric Vehicle Initiative, said the group hopes to have agreement from the city on placement of the stations in the next couple weeks. Once that happens, they’ll go shopping, and plan to start installations in spring. UAS’ project is the farthest along, Mesdag said.
“The timeline is a little up to the people installing them,” Wilkinson said.
There are still less than 15 electric cars in town — five Chevrolet Volts and eight Nissan Leafs, to be exact — but Mesdag expects those numbers to grow. Ten of these households are enrolled in AEL&P’s discounted rates for electric vehicle owners. Mesdag said they run their cars for $10 to $15 per month.
“Most were purchased in the second half of last year,” he said. “I think we’ll see a lot more of these coming in.”
One of the obstacles to growing the electric car market in Juneau is its lack of a mechanic certified to work on them. Mesdag said part of the grant money could go toward sending a Juneau mechanic down south for the training.
MacGregor said that during his trip to Juneau he visited business owners interested in installing their own charging stations. Juneau car dealer Stanley Ford is hoping to begin carrying Ford’s electric models, Wilkinson said. Mesdag said there are many business ventures that could come from Juneau veering toward electric vehicles — tour buses and car rental companies could save money and resources by going electric, as well as showcase electric models.
“There’s a lot of appeal for companies,” Mesdag said. “It’s great exposure for their vehicles and exposure to tourists we have around here.”
In his experience, Juneau’s size and isolation makes it “arguably one of the most perfect scenarios that you could ever imagine for a city or a town to go electrified for transportation,” MacGregor said — there’s only so far to drive in the city and gas prices can get quite high.
“Why would you (pay for gas) if you don’t need to do that?” he asked.
Anyone interested in helping to develop Juneau’s electric vehicle infrastructure, or has input on the topic, can attend the next Electric Vehicle Initiative meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at JEDC. Meetings take place every second Thursday of the month.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.