Under the hood of a Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

A look back and ahead at what fuels Yukon transportation

Museum gets set to host its first Electric Vehicle Discovery Day

Surrounding the charging station for electric vehicles outside the Yukon Transportation Museum is a large display structure.

By March 8 the structure will feature panels all about about electric vehicles. Wondering how they work in the winter? There’s a panel for that and many other questions about the fact that they operate on battery power.

The unveiling of the display that day will coincide with the museum’s first Electric Vehicle Discovery Day that’s being co-hosted with the Yukon government.

A car show of sorts will be held in the parking lot of the museum with owners on hand to talk about their rides while the Yukon government’s own electric vehicle (EV), perhaps better known as Sparky, will be on display inside the museum.

Yukon Transportation Museum executive director Janna Swales said she’s hoping residents will get a chance to learn about EVs, have their questions answered by those who drive the vehicles every day, see some of the EV options available and look back at how transportation in the Yukon has changed over the years.

In the museum are a number of items showing how transportation has been fuelled over the centuries in the Yukon.

“Things are always changing,” Swales said in a March 2 interview.

It was about six years ago when she became interested in how transportation has been fuelled in the past, present and how it will be on into the future.

With displays featuring photographs of dog sleds carrying cans of gasoline, the mass amounts of wood which allowed the sternwheelers to ply the waterways of the Yukon and early regenerative locomotive braking systems as well as the newer methods used to transport people around, Swales said it’s fascinating to see how people adapt to change as well as the impacts it has.

Those impacts have included the deforestation that fuelled the sternwheelers to the emissions from gas-powered transport. In the case of electric vehicles, while the environmental footprint may be less, it does increase demand for electricity.

As Swales’ interest in the “fuel” — whether that’s gas, diesel or electricity — that gets people where they want to go continued to grow, the museum had the opportunity to feature a more modern “fuel” of sorts with the addition of a charging station outside the museum in 2018.

Swales says the station is being used more as the number of Yukoners purchasing electric vehicles (there are currently 16 electric vehicles as well as 163 electric/gas hybrids registered in the territory) continues to rise and travellers with EVs stop by throughout the summer to charge up their ride.

In 2019, Wade Anderson was among those travellers. His journey by electric vehicle — his Tesla Model 3 in this case — over two months was well documented with the vehicle travelling more than 30,000 kilometres from the southern United States up to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

Swales, who now drives a ‘92 Nissan Sentra but has her eye on an EV in the future as they become more common and the prices potentially fall, had her first experience riding in an EV a few years ago in Vancouver with a friend of a friend who had a Tesla.

“The quietness is obvious,” she said as she also recalled how fast the vehicle could go in the “zippy little ride” she went on around Stanley Park.

Two local EV owners have also noted the quiet rides they now enjoy with their EVs.

Greg Karais and Sebastian Altenberger both purchased their EVs last August. While Karais opted for the Chevrolet Bolt, Altenberger and his partner decided to buy a Nissan Leaf.

Karais’ purchase came after experiencing his brother’s Tesla.

“I was incredibly impressed,” he said of the Tesla, highlighting the quiet ride and his desire to significantly decrease vehicle maintenance bills along with the obvious benefit of a smaller environmental footprint.

With a local dealership selling the less expensive Bolt, he opted to purchase that over the Tesla.

While the Bolt costs significantly less then the Tesla, Karais acknowledged the savings owners see with any EV aren’t upfront. Rather, the savings come in the form of the little maintenance the vehicles require and not having to gas up the vehicle.

Now that he has an EV, he said gassing up “seems so 1970s”.

While the charging time increases in the cold, Karais pointed out any vehicle needs to be plugged in when the temperature drops. In his case plugging it in means also getting charged for the next day.

“We’ve got to make a change in society,” Karais said, adding that right now EVs are the best option from an environmental standpoint to get around though ultimately he believes mass transportation will be the way to go in the future.

Meanwhile, Altenberger too has been pleased with the purchase he and his partner made primarily for their day-to-day drive downtown. Like Karais and his wife, Altenberger and his partner also have a second vehicle they use for longer journeys.

The increased electrical cost has not had a major impact on the power bill, the owners said.

“We have about $20-$30 more compared to last year (of course that does not mean much, as everyone has different driving distances … we live in Takhini North and commute downtown every day for work or errands) considering the cost of electricity: our cost per 100km is at $2.77 in the summer; at $3.60 on an average winter day of -10 to -20; at $4.50 when it is -40 and colder,” Altenberger stated in an email, emphaszing his figures are approximate.

Both owners recognized the electric grid uses diesel and LNG at times when there’s more demand, but as Altenberger pointed out he’s been able to set up his car to charge during non-peak hours from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., thus reducing pressure on the system.

Karais said EVs still remain the better option for driving with less of an environmental footprint.

Overall, both owners are pleased with their EV and will be on hand to talk about their rides during the EV Discovery Day at the Yukon Transportation Museum.

Actvities will get underway at noon and continue until 5 p.m. on March 8.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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