Jenna Kunze
On Thursday, Haines resident Bart Henderson accepted a $1,000 check from AP&T employees Greg Mickelson (center) and Tom Ervin (left) for purchasing an electric vehicle.

Alaska Power & Telephone is offering a $1,000 credit to reward Southeast customers who purchase an electric vehicle.

Last Thursday, Bart Henderson of Haines was presented a blown-up check for his recent buy: a zero-emission 2017 Nissan Leaf. Henderson was the first beneficiary of the program, which kicked off April 4.

“The reason AP&T has this program is in response to interest in electric vehicles from our customers,” said AP&T’s vice president of business development, Jason Custer. “(We are) trying to encourage the first wave of users in rural communities. Once they start appearing, they’re like the ambassadors and educational resources in the communities.”

Henderson is just that.

At his celebration at Haines’ AP&T office on Thursday, he rattled off the benefits of an electric vehicle to interested passersby who lingered over the sleek vehicle, checking under the hood and appearing shocked at so few moving parts. “More efficient, less maintenance, cleaner energy…” he said.

AP&T purchased an electric vehicle for employee use at its Prince of Wales office in Craig in February 2018. “We spent 50 percent less on electricity as what we would on gas,” AP&T’s vice president of power operations, Greg Mickelson, said. “And that’s if you’re talking about a car that gets 30 miles per gallon.”

The electricity that Haines customers use is generated by hydropower, so it’s cleaner energy produced locally, Custer adds.

Two months ago, Henderson purchased his car from Fishbone Motors, a used Nissan Leaf dealership in Juneau that brings the cars up from Seattle to “(release) into the wilds of southeast Alaska,” their website reads. He said he loved it the moment he test drove it, and the added credit incentive was a cherry on top.

“With the climate change that’s happening and how fast it’s happening, we all need to do our part,” Henderson said. “One of the biggest problems with trying to grapple with climate change is everybody has the same excuse to say ‘my little bit doesn’t matter,’ but if everybody says that, of course, that’s a problem. The easiest thing that you can do to do the most good for the planet is in what you drive.”

Greenhouse gases, which absorb and trap heat in the environment that warms the planet, are entirely credited to human activity, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the United States is from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation,” the EPA’s website reads. “Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation primarily come from burning fossil fuel for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes.”

Henderson said that, even for the nonbelievers of climate change, he still sees a benefit in purchasing electric vehicles.

“If everything was wrong and people were wrong about climate change, still we’ve got nothing to lose,” he said. “We’ve got everything to gain by doing what it would take to turn it around. So, we’d have a nicer planet to live in and the air is cleaner to breath and the waters cleaner and we don’t have wars over oil anymore. What do you got to lose?”

The biggest hurdle for electric vehicles in rural communities is lack of charging infrastructure for long-distance drives. Henderson said he’s kept his gasoline truck for trips to Fairbanks, which are impossible with his Leaf’s 110 mile to empty range. He charges the car at his house, about every fourth day of driving. “Up here, that infrastructure isn’t built up yet but, it will be,” Henderson predicted.

Henderson brought up another Nissan Leaf, a 2015, that he sold Thursday to Ellen and Larry Larson.

“It’ll be a great vehicle for buzzing around town and save the life of our Honda for longer trips,” Ellen Larson said. She said the rebate helped sway their purchase “big time.”

The incentive program will run through Dec. 30, after which AP&T will reevaluate its new budget cycle.

The incentive does not apply to hybrid or range-extender vehicles.

Other requirements for the program can be found at AP&T’s office. The incentive applies to used vehicles that must be physically in the presence of the service area, and does not apply retroactively to vehicles owned by AP&T customers prior to April 4.