Of the attendees who drove from the central Kenai Peninsula to Homer for Homer Electric Association’s annual member meeting on Thursday, at least two made the trip in electric cars.
HEA information service analyst Joe Halstead was behind the wheel of the cooperative’s 2018 Chevrolet Volt, which HEA recently purchased as a practical test of how electric vehicles perform in local conditions.
“We’re going to use data from this car, so we can say ‘this is what we like, this is what we don’t like, this is what it’s costing us,’ things like that,” Halstead said.
Kenai surgeon Henry Krull also drove his Tesla electric car to Homer for HEA members to see alongside the cooperative-owned Volt. The owners of an electric BMW also displayed their vehicle at the meeting.
Electric vehicles are becoming popular in Southeast Alaska communities like Juneau. The southeast has an abundance of cheap hydro-electricity and relatively short road distances, but electric drivers on the Kenai Peninsula are in a different environment, both in geography and electricity costs.
What Halstead has found so far is that driving style and amenity use have big effects on an electric car’s range. On the Volt’s dash is a sliding-scale display of four factors that affect its power efficiency: technique, terrain, climate settings, and outside temperature. The car also has internal features that can help it get better mileage. In addition to traditional pedal-brakes, the Volt has a switch on the steering wheel that triggers its regenerative braking, which charges the batteries with energy drawn from the wheels as the car slows down.
With heavy regenerative breaking, the interior amenities turned off, and the car doing lots of downhills, Halstead estimated a full charge could take the Volt over 240 miles. The U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s range estimate is 238 miles.