Do Electric Vehicles Have a Place in the Remote Alaska Communities?

Do Electric Vehicles Have a Place in the Remote Alaska Communities?

A National Science Foundation-funded planning project is looking at how electric vehicles can be used in remote Arctic communities. The project is called Electric Vehicles in the Arctic — Interactions with Cold Weather, Microgrids, People and Policy. It’s led by the UAA Institute for Social and Economic Research’s Jennifer Schmidt and includes work by ACEP’s Michelle Wilber.

Last month, Schmidt and Wilber met with stakeholders, including at public workshops, in Bethel, Kotzebue and Galena to find out how electric vehicles may be able to meet transportation needs in rural Alaska and what the largest barriers to adoption are.  A public workshop on April 6 explored these questions with members of the community.  

Electric vehicles are widely seen as the future of transportation, 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. 

This planning project, part of NSF’s Navigating the New Arctic, brings together researchers and community members from the 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, youths, elders, etc.). It will also examine potential trade-offs between conventional and electric vehicles for rural users across specific use cases such as subsistence activities. This project will serve as the foundation for future research on EV adoption to achieve just, equitable and sustainable energy systems.
Follow-up meetings in each of the three communities will be held in the coming year. These meetings will share knowledge to guide development of co-produced research and to seek design feedback around tools for the community to use in EV decision-making. 

Contact Michelle Wilber,, for more information.


Two ACEP interns stand near an electric vehicle at the Kotzebue wind farm. Photo by Michelle Wilber.