Electric Vehicles in the Arctic (EVITA) - Interactions with Cold Weather, Microgrids, People, and Policy
Navigating the New Arctic (NNA) is one of NSF's 10 Big Ideas. NNA projects address convergence scientific challenges in the rapidly changing Arctic. The Arctic research is needed to inform the economy, security and resilience of the Nation, the larger region and the globe. NNA empowers new research partnerships from local to international scales, diversifies the next generation of Arctic researchers, enhances efforts in formal and informal education, and integrates the co-production of knowledge where appropriate. This award fulfills part of that aim by supporting planning activities with clear potential to develop novel, leading edge research ideas and approaches to address NNA goals. It integrates aspects of the natural environment, built environment, and/or social systems, and addresses important societal challenges and engages with local and Indigenous communities.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are a growing mode of transportation across the globe, and the Arctic is seeing increased interest in EV adoption. However, several fundamental gaps in knowledge must be filled to evaluate where, how, and for whom EVs can provide widespread benefits, and what might need to change to realize these benefits. For example, little data exist on the performance of EVs in cold Arctic temperatures and how EVs affect isolated rural power systems. It is also not clear how electric rates and public policies will affect EV adoption and use. This planning project brings together researchers and community members from three Alaska communities to identify perceived barriers to adoption, mechanisms for facilitating adoption, perceived usefulness, and use of EVs among different potential user groups (i.e., subsistence users, youth, elders, etc.). It also examines potential trade-offs between conventional and electric vehicles for rural users across specific use cases, such as subsistence activities. This planning project serves as the foundation for future research on EV adoption by addressing the identified knowledge gaps that can provide data and information necessary to achieve just, equitable, and sustainable energy systems in rural Arctic communities.
The focus of this planning project is on strengthening community connections by conducting planning activities for convergent engineering and social science research in partnership with three representative remote islanded grid communities (Kotzebue, Galena, and Bethel, Alaska). An initial community meeting in these three communities initiates an open discussion about visions and concerns for EVs in their community. Two more follow-up community meetings in each of the three communities continue to build collaborations and ideas. These meetings facilitate the sharing of knowledge to guide the development of interview questions and discrete choice experiments planned for future co-produced research, to seek design feedback around tools for the community to use in EV decision-making, and to strengthen connections with the communities. During these community meetings, research focuses on limited data collection on vehicle usage. Additional remote meetings of research and community project partners solidify how the knowledge sharing informs research design to address gaps in knowledge around cold weather impacts, grid impacts, and policy.
In April 2022 we traveled to Bethel, Kotzebue, and Galena Alaska. We plan to travel to these three communities again in the Fall of 2022 and Spring 2023.