Road Rally Sends EVs to the Arctic Coast
An open stretch of the Dalton Highway in May 2015.
The northernmost drivable point in the United States is the end of the road for an all-electric rally that starts in Fairbanks on Friday.
To the Coast and Back
The inaugural Arctic Road Rally involves a convoy of electric vehicles (EVs) on a 1,096-mile journey from Fairbanks to Oliktok Point and back. Oliktok Point, the site of a production pad operated by Italian oil company ENI, is accessible by roads extending northwest from Prudhoe Bay.
Participating vehicles include Tesla models Y, 3, S-LR, and X; R1T pickup trucks by American EV startup Rivian; and a Ford F-150 Lightning, the all-electric variant of the nation’s top-selling vehicle for forty years in a row. A series of charging stations have been temporarily installed at five points along the Dalton Highway for purposes of the rally.
The rally is presented by Launch Alaska, the Alaska Electric Vehicle Association, and the Center for Transportation and the Environment, and made possible by a grant from the US Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions. Additional sponsors include the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Alaska Energy Authority (AEA), Alyeska Tire, Chugach Electric Association, Cook Inlet Region, Inc., ConocoPhillips Alaska, Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA), Sandia National Laboratories, and Seekins Ford.
“As an Alaskan, I feel that it’s important to respect our greatest asset—our state’s abundant natural resources,” says Craig Wortham, general manager of Alyeska Tire. “We are borrowing this planet from our children and future generations and as a father and proud Alaskan, it’s important to me to leave the planet and Alaska in better condition than when I received it. By sponsoring events like the Arctic Road Rally, Alyeska Tire is committing to play an active role in the work necessary to continue to make Alaska an amazing place.”
The event unfolds against a nationwide backdrop of increased EV adoption and investment. The AEA has applied for federal infrastructure money to build a network of electric vehicle charging stations from Fairbanks to Anchorage. The plan calls for $50 million over five years.
AEA Executive Director Curtis W. Thayer says the Arctic Road Rally aims to demonstrate the utility of a long-range charging corridor. “This innovative event will showcase EV capabilities on one of Alaska’s most isolated and rugged roads,” he says. “Lessons learned will inform AEA as we develop Alaska’s EV Infrastructure Implementation Plan to strategically deploy EV charging solutions across Alaska.”
The Arctic Road Rally is meant to demonstrate technology improvements that could increase the appeal of EVs even in northern Alaska, says Golden Valley Electric Association CEO John Burns. “We are thrilled to support innovation to help move electrified transportation forward in Alaska,” he says. “GVEA recognizes that the adoption of EVs will help to reduce carbon emissions and is in line with GVEA’s commitment to expand renewable energy resources on our grid to the extent practical without negatively impacting rates or reliability.”
A Promising Option
A diagram of the rally route shows the five charging stations temporarily installed north of Fairbanks.
To reach the turnaround point at the Arctic coast, rally drivers must cross the Greater Kuparuk Unit operated by ConocoPhillips Alaska. Even though the stunt aims to reduce fossil fuel consumption, the oil company is willing to cooperate.
“ConocoPhillips Alaska is proud to sponsor the Arctic Road Rally as an important demonstration of the capabilities of electric vehicles in the Last Frontier,” says Mike Timmcke, Greater Kuparuk Area operations manager. “Partnering with Launch Alaska and the Alaska Electric Vehicle Association assists us in our continuing evaluation of vehicle electrification technology for use in our operations. ConocoPhillips has already invested in hybrid vehicle technologies in our North Slope truck fleet to improve fuel efficiency, and we are purchasing several fully electric trucks for our vehicle fleet to evaluate EV truck performance in harsh arctic conditions. Electric vehicle technology is a promising option for ConocoPhillips to reduce fuel consumption in our operations on the Alaska North Slope.”
Drivers depart from Fairbanks on a staggered schedule beginning at 6 a.m. on Friday, August 12, coinciding with an electric vehicle exhibition event hosted by Golden Valley Electric Association from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 758 Illinois Street.
Rally progress can be followed virtually via ArcticRoadRally.com/Updates. The convoy is expected to return to Fairbanks by Tuesday, August 16.
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In the February 2024 issue of Alaska Business, we engineered a special section that inspects the many ways architecture and engineering enrich our lives, from creating beautiful and functional spaces to crafting functional and safe transportation corridors. In addition to the built world in which we live, this issue celebrates small businesses and the many functions they provide, whether they're developing tools in the healthcare industry or opening new dining locations.