Picture this: a slew of autonomous electric cars silently cruise through the streets of downtown Haines. Instead of drivers groaning at the ever-increasing price of gas, they stop instead to charge their vehicles, saving money otherwise spent on fossil fuels that are contributing to the accelerated warming of the arctic.
While this imagined future is a distant possibility for Haines, the Chilkoot Indian Association (CIA) is making efforts to prepare the community for a transition away from diesel following federal trends.
The Transportation Department of CIA, which was created in 2011, submitted a grant this summer to purchase the old Delta Western gas station and install charging stations for electric vehicles, which would be the first publicly available stations in town.
“It’s either keep current or be left behind,” said CIA tribal administrator Harriet Brouillette. Brouillette referred to the Biden Administration’s goal to electrify all new light-duty vehicles by 2027, and to make all federal vehicle acquisitions electric by 2035. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that became effective in 2021, and the Inflation Reduction Act that passed the summer of 2022 also include multiple policies and programs to promote electric vehicles (EVs).
“With this administration, there are a lot of opportunities to help to make the switch away from diesel,” said Brouillette, though she acknowledged she might not hear back about the grant until the end of the year.
Some residents are already onboard the nationwide push for EVs. Art Woodard, who purchased a Tesla Model Y just this year, is already reaping the benefits of federal and state incentives. Woodard says he qualifies for the clean vehicle tax credit, which is a $750 tax break. Alaska Power and Telephone (AP&T) also gave him a $1,000 rebate.
Woodard shipped the vehicle on Alaska Marine Lines to replace his old Lincoln Navigator. “Nothing compares to Tesla in terms of safety and efficiency,” he said.
Woodard said apart from snow clearance, he is not worried about the car in the winter. He had installed a charging station in his garage for $550, and he charges it overnight.
Woodard then listed the other benefits of owning an EV: it’s quiet, there is no carbon footprint, and he doesn’t have to get gas or change the oil. “The only disadvantages are the lack of charging stations in the state, and the time it takes to charge it,” he said. To fully charge a Tesla takes about two hours, said Woodard, who was hopeful that there might be superchargers in the future.
Borough manager Annette Kreitzer said the idea of installing EV charging stations has been brought up many times, but the borough is not ready to take action just yet because there are still many unknowns. Haines Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) is currently trying to determine how much of the borough’s power comes from diesel and hydro. “It’s hard to get past powering charging stations with diesel from an environmental standpoint,” said Kreitzer.
Alaska Power & Telephone officials previously told CVN that year round, about 80% of Haines and Skagway’s combined energy production comes from hydro, while the the rest comes from diesel plants.
Kreitzer hopes that HEDC’s findings will help inform the borough’s next steps, but says installing charging stations and providing incentives for EVs is “something we are keeping our eyes on, not something I’m concerned about today.”
About75% of Juneau’s energy comes from petroleum fuels while 20% comes from hydropower. There are at least 20 public charging stations in Juneau, and the city has managed to become one of the highest per capita ownership of hybrid vehicle ownership.
Skagway installed five free public charging stations downtown in 2020 where drivers can charge for free.