Electric Vehicle Community Meetings Strengthen UAF Research Relationships

Electric Vehicle Community Meetings Strengthen UAF Research Relationships

Community connections were strengthened in Kotzebue last week at a public meeting that took place at the UAF Chukchi Campus, and through one-on-one interviews with local partners about electric vehicles and their place in their Arctic community.

ACEP research engineer Michelle Wilber and Jen Schmidt, an associate professor at UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, completed a second visit to Kotzebue for research funded by the National Science Foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic program’s “Planning Collaborative Research: Electric Vehicles in the Arctic” project (award # 2127171).

The focus of the EVITA project is to strengthen community connections by conducting planning activities that bring together engineering and social science research in partnership with three representative remote islanded microgrid communities in Alaska — Kotzebue, Galena and Bethel. An initial community meeting in the three communities took place in April 2022 and included an open discussion about visions and concerns for EVs in the communities.

Schmidt, with her social science expertise, led the team to have conversations with Kotzebue residents looking for feedback on EV infrastructure design and around tools for the community to use in EV decision-making.

The research team continues to develop relationships with local research partners, including the Alaska Technical Center, Chukchi Campus, Kotzebue Electric Association and the Native Village of Kotzebue, also known as the Kotzebue IRA.

By continuing to use knowledge sharing to guide the development of interview questions and discrete choice experiments, the results of these efforts will be used for future co-produced research in these and other communities in Alaska and beyond.

In addition, Wilber, an electric vehicle researcher and research tool developer, took the opportunity to continue to refine a tool developed to help with EV adoption decision making. Through a live demonstration activity using the Alaska Electric Vehicle Calculator, Wilber was able to continue to improve the user-friendliness of the online cost savings calculator, which she developed. Feedback from the demonstration to estimate the cost savings based on one individual’s truck use if they were to switch from an internal combustion engine to an electric vehicle showed the calculator accurately estimated current fuel use and was a useful tool.

The team will continue the planning process with visits to Galena and Bethel later this month.

For more information on this and other research in Kotzebue, please contact Christie Haupert at clhaupert@alaska.edu.


ACEP research engineer Michelle Wilber, left, shows the Alaska Electric Vehicle Calculator to Minnie Naylor, the UAF Chukchi Campus interim director. Photo by Jen Schmidt.