Leafs of autumn: Juneau Electric Vehicle Association holds meet-up

Owners and enthusiasts had the event as the skies briefly cleared.

As the skies briefly cleared Saturday after the storm, Juneau played host to its eighth annual meet-up and road rally for electric vehicles.

Owners and advocates for the vehicles gathered as members of the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers grilled burgers.

“This is put on by the Juneau EV Association,” said organizer Duff Mitchell. “We’re above 500 and getting close to 600 electric vehicles in Juneau.”

According to Devon Kibby, president of both the JEVA and the Alaska Electric Vehicle Association, that number includes at least 322 Nissan Leafs, more than 70 Chevy Bolts and more than 40 Tesla models. AKEVA works with lawmakers and petitions companies to provide more opportunities for electric vehicles in the state.

[High winds and heavy rain makes for a busy night for firefighters, power company crews]

“We’ve been working with the city as well on a plan,” Kibby said. “How do you take Juneau from no EVs to all EVs?”

The meetup comes amid National Drive Electric Week. Juneau was one of the first communities to participate in the annual week, Mitchell said. Electric vehicles have been expanding in use over the last decade, Mitchell said, in Juneau and elsewhere. When they first started becoming available to consumers, they were such a rarity in Juneau that they were featured in the Fourth of July parade. Now they’re so common as to be ubiquitous.

“You’re going to start seeing trucks next year,” Mitchell said. “We’re on the cutting edge of seeing beneficial electrification in the transportation sector.”

The vehicles are particularly useful in Juneau with its limited road system, Mitchell said, as well as from a maintenance point of view. Electric vehicles require considerably less maintenance without an internal combustion engine to maintain, Mitchell said. However, the maintenance EVs do require, generally software issues, is considerably trickier to come by in Juneau.

“You have to pay for a barge trip just for a software update,” said Dennis Harris, who was attending the event.

To help that, at least for Leaf owners, Juneau is working with Bellevue Nissan to get a technician up to Juneau in the fall, Mitchell said. It’s the result of a years-long effort to help Leaf owners service their vehicles affordably.

“We’ve been working on this for three years and we finally broke through to the other side,” Mitchell said, citing difficulties such as the pandemic and working with the corporate side of things. “They’ve sold quite a few in Juneau so they have a sense of obligation.”

While JEVA and Nissan are working out the details, the idea is that the technician will come up and work with a local maintenance shop for garage space. They’ll be able to update software, diagnose issues, treat recalls, and order parts for air freight up to Alaska to arrive and be installed before the technician departs Juneau. There might be a second trip up, Mitchell said.

For more information on registering for the Leaf maintenance with JEVA, Kibby said, check out the group’s Facebook.