Dalton Highway in Summer, Alaska, USA

Arctic Road Rally supported by Sandia

August 12, 2022 8:01 am Published by

The northernmost stretch of road in the US is about to become accessible for the first time to electric vehicles. From August 12 to 16, electric vehicle drivers will travel the Dalton Highway to and from the Arctic Ocean as part of the 2022 Arctic Road Rally. Sandia is supporting this journey by providing modeling analytics to help organizers gauge and accommodate the demand for electric-vehicle charging along the route.

Arctic Road Rally Map and EV Energy Charts
EV MODELING – The map, left, shows the route from Fairbanks in the south to Oliktok Point in the north with the red dots signifying the locations of the temporary charging stations. On the right, results from the model show the elevation over the course of the route, as well as the energy needed, maximum charging power, and charging time for each vehicle type at each station.  

Beginning in Fairbanks, the 1,096-mile route will take drivers through some of Alaska’s most remote wilderness to Oliktok Point along the coast of the North Slope — and back again. This mostly gravel road lacks many modern conveniences, including cell service, internet, and service stations.

Communities along the route, like many localities in Alaska, also rely on isolated, fossil-fuel dependent microgrids susceptible to high prices and fuel shortages that can result in power outages. The Arctic Road Rally will highlight these and other challenges to electrifying transportation in remote communities.  

“Many rural communities may not be built up enough and capable of supporting high-power charging, as is the case in Alaska,” said Birk Jones, senior scientist in the renewable distributed systems integration group at Sandia. “Our focus when it comes to electric vehicles is understanding how they interact with the grid.”

The deployment of electric vehicle charging in locations with limited or absent electrical infrastructure is an important challenge, noted Abraham Ellis, senior manager for renewable energy at Sandia. “We are interested in expanding the applicability of renewable and storage technologies to improve energy access and resilience in all environments, including the Arctic.”

Sandia became involved in the Arctic Road Rally after Jones, Ellis, and others met representatives of Launch Alaska, the organization hosting the event, at the DOE ArcticX Summit in May 2022. The opportunity to collaborate was an easy fit considering Sandia’s long history of applied research in the Arctic, as well as expertise in developing innovative renewable energy technologies and integrating emerging technologies into the electric grid.    

Jones led the development of a simple, free-body model to estimate how much energy would be used along the route by different types of electric vehicles, such as Teslas, Rivians, and the Ford F-150 Lightning. The model simulates the ability of each vehicle to overcome gravity, friction, and air resistance.

Results from the model can help the organizers understand when the cars will need to charge and how much power will be required at each station, Jones explained. “Organizers plan to stagger vehicle start times to offset charging so that there’s not too much power demand at once at each station.”

Sandia is providing this information to further validate what the Road Rally planning team thinks will happen based on calculations provided by another engineer. Jones sees potential in continuing to collaborate with these types of events to collect data that could check and improve the model’s accuracy.

Forecasting charging needs and grid impacts will be critical for the equitable deployment of electric vehicles, Jones said. Additionally, as he points out, rural residents often must drive long distances to access jobs, medical care, and other services, making charging infrastructure even more important. “In rural areas, if they don’t have places to charge, they will be late adopters.”

Follow the drivers on their journey through updates on the Arctic Road Rally website or #ArcticRoadRally posts on Twitter.

Tags: , ,