Tromso, a Norwegian city known as the “Gateway to the Arctic”, receives no sunlight for two months of the year.
Yet this remote, beautiful, snowy city is the unlikely focus of the global electric car industry, attracting the attention of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, founder of electric car maker Tesla.
His company has recently opened a showroom there – its most northerly outpost.
Why? Because Norway, it seems, is simply nuts about electric cars.
The country is the world leader in electric cars per capita and has just become the fourth country in the world to have 100,000 of them on the roads.
When you consider the other nations on the list are the US (population: 320 million), Japan (pop. 130 million) and China (pop. 1.35 billion), then that is quite an achievement for this rugged, sparsely populated country of just five million.
Some of its politicians want to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2025, which prompted Musk to tweet: “What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!!”
On an earlier visit in April, he attributed a lot of Tesla’s success to the country’s pioneering stance on electric cars.
So how has Norway managed it?
Elisabeth Bryn helps explain the answer. The 56-year-old teacher enjoys driving in the icy streets of Tromso and she can barely contain her excitement as she misses our turn.
“It is such a good feeling to drive a clean car. It means I have a clean conscience and it works out cheaper in the long run,” she tells the BBC.
But it is economic incentive as much as environmental concern that is fuelling the rise in green cars – Norway introduced a raft of generous subsidies to encourage people to go electric.
Electric Car Incentive List
No purchase taxes
Exemption from 25% VAT on purchase
Low annual road tax
No charges on toll roads or ferries
Free municipal parking
Access to bus lanes
50% reduction in company car tax
No VAT on leasing
It launched an aggressive tax policy towards high-polluting cars, while offering zero tax on zero-emission cars. This “polluter pays” policy brought the cost of an electric car into line with a conventionally powered one.
Bryn is clearly shrewd about the numbers and says the entire cost of her car will be recouped within eight years thanks to the tax and fuel savings.
But aren’t people worried about running out of power? Lack of range is the electric car’s Achilles heel after all.
This is where Norway comes into its own, as Bryn demonstrates at a public charging point on an industrial estate out of town.
The electricity being pumped into her car is free.
Norway is fortunate enough to have close to 100% renewable and cheap hydro power production.
According to the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, even if all three million cars on the country’s roads were electric, they would suck up just 5-6% of the annual hydro power electricity production.
Elisabeth Bryn loves her electric car, but some of her friends worry about flat batteries
Rapid charging points can pump her Nissan Leaf with up to 80% charge in just 30 minutes. Alternatively, Bryn can charge her car at home at a much slower pace overnight.
It helps that Norway is also the biggest oil producer in Western Europe and the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas. In other words, Norway is rich enough to subsidise its electric car lifestyle.
But despite these considerable perks, not everyone is convinced.
In Oslo there are more than 14,000 electric cars – about 30% of the market. But in the more northern reaches – cities like Tromso – enthusiasm has been more muted.
This may be explained by the tough terrain and “range anxiety” – concerns that a flat battery will leave them stranded in arctic conditions.
Can electric cars perform as well in far northern climes?
Studies have shown that electric car performance can deteriorate markedly in extreme cold or hot conditions. And Nissan, whose Leaf model is the biggest selling electric vehicle in Norway, admits that the car’s 124-mile maximum range can fall significantly in icier conditions when the heating, lights and demister are all draining the charge more thirstily.
Bryn says such concerns have put off some of her friends: “They have a cabin deep in the countryside and said they just couldn’t trust an electric car to get them there. They said there just weren’t enough charging points.”
Yet Tesla’s new showroom in Tromso, and the steady growth in the number of public charging points, demonstrates the industry’s commitment to spreading the green message no matter how inhospitable the environment.
And the rest of the world is learning lessons from Norway.
Germany has just announced a €1bn (£784m; $1.1bn) incentive scheme to get more consumers buying electric cars, for example.
Christian Ruoff, publisher of US electric car magazine, Charged, sums it up: “Electric car makers in the US see Norway as a window into the future.
“Norway shows that if governments can make electric cars as affordable as petrol equivalents then motorists, even in the Arctic Circle, will buy them.
“It also busts the myths that electric cars and their batteries are only suitable for cities with more moderate climates like Oslo or San Francisco.”
City executive board member for climate change, John Tanner, said: “Climate change and poor air quality are two of the biggest issues facing Oxford and we all need to do everything we can to cut vehicle emissions.
“However, for people living in Oxford’s beautiful but narrow terraced streets, charging an electric car is a real problem. This project aims to remove that barrier.
Nissan has committed to making more batteries for electric vehicles in the United Kingdom. The Japanese company will use its Sunderland factory to make the next generation of batteries for electric cars. The £26,5 million ($37,5 million) investment safeguards 300 highly skilled (and well paid) jobs at the 30-year-old plant.
If you are wondering why this is a big deal, you should know that Nissan’s Sunderland plant is the largest facility in the history of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the change will make this specific factory the largest lithium-ion battery plant of its kind in Europe.
Nissan has been making electric cars in Sunderland since 2013, when it invested £420 million ($595 million) in accommodating the production of the Leaf and its components.
The highly skilled workers did not come out of the sky, as Nissan partnered with several Universities and other technology partners to pave the way for future engineers that would further develop batteries for electric vehicles.
Nissan makes batteries for its EV in three factories across the world. The other European plant used by Nissan to make battery modules for one of its electric models, the e-NV200 electric van, is found in Barcelona, Spain.
The Leaf was recently updated, and the new version will be available at dealers across Europe starting this month. The car has an upgraded range of 155 miles (250 kilometers). However, the Leaf is not Nissan’s first electric vehicle. The first prototype of this type was made by the carmaker 68 years ago, and it was called the Tama Electric Vehicle.
The Japanese brand also marketed the world’s first electric car with a lithium-ion battery in 1996, the Prairie Joy EV. Thanks to that vehicle, Nissan engineers were able to develop the company’s first mass-produced EV, the Leaf.
Investing in making new electric cars is not enough to make them attractive. All carmakers that invested in this technology have rolled out their quick-charging solutions.
In the case of Nissan and Renault, the two alliance partners developed the CHAdeMO Quick Chargers. Currently, there are almost 10,000 CHAdeMO chargers worldwide, each capable of charging a Leaf’s battery from the “low level” alert to 80% capacity in just 30 minutes.
Daniel Kim is a dreamer. Like all dreamers, he has an idea for a product he thinks the world could use. His dream is a self balancing, enclosed electric motorcycle that would serve as a safe, efficient transportation pod for urban dwellers.
Lit Motors says more than a thousand people have reserved one of its auto balancing electric vehicles (AEVs). When will they receive them? “The AEV’s development timeline and delivery date are dependent on several factors: engineering development & testing, design freeze, supply chain, assembly line development, and financing,” the company says. In other words, your machine may be ready in time for Christmas, just not this Christmas.
Swatch, the innovative Swiss company known mostly for its stylish watches, made an attempt to build an electric car way back in the 80’s. That effort was a dismal failure, mostly because the timing was all wrong. The only batteries available then were of the traditional lead acid variety. No one had even thought of using a lithium ion battery to power an electric car back then. » Read the rest of this entry «
Nissan joined forces with Ecotricity green car chargernetwork operator to call the UK government for official EV-charging road signs.
The two companies created the campaign in order to accelerate the progress of the EV infrastructure, demanding from the UK government the introduction of official road signage than can be used to designate the different types of EV charging points available on British roads.
UK currently hosts over 9,000 electric car charging stations across its road network with no official road signs leading to them. The campaign demands for specific EV-signs that will host new universal symbols for each different type of charger available to electric vehicle users, much like the signs used for fuel stations
Ecotricity, currently operating Europe’s biggest rapid charging network, says that the phenomenal 2015 growth in the use of electric vehicles demands the use of official road signs, as over a million electric miles have been driven every month.
Its Electric Highway members have now driven over 15 million miles since the charging network first established in 2011. “It’s time to introduce charging point road signs in Britain,” said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity. “They’ll provide necessary direction for the thousands of electric car drivers in Britain as well as increasing public awareness that the infrastructure is ready for them to make the move to an electric car.”
Nissan has currently sold more than 11,500 Leafs since its UK debut and almost 200,000 on a global scale, making them the manufacturer of the world’s best-selling electric vehicle in the world.
Further improving the electric vehicle infrastructure will not only make the lives of their users easier, but also drive more customers into purely electric mobility, as they will feel more secure about their new purchase.
25% increase in LEAF driving range – 155 miles (250km) on a single charge
Significant battery updates improve performance
New NissanConnect EV infotainment system with greater functionality; off-board telematics for remote operations
Nissan has updated its LEAF electric car with a new 30kWh battery that promises to give drivers 155 miles of motoring range. It’s hoped the new battery will also help to broaden the LEAF’s appeal and boost sales. » Read the rest of this entry «
Carlos Ghosn, the fast-talking head of the Renault-Nissan alliance, is not keen to be drawn on targets for electric car sales. A 2011 prediction of 1.5m Renault-Nissan electric vehicles by 2016 turned out to be wildly optimistic. The group just passed the 250,000 mark.
Ghosn was not alone. President Barack Obama predicted 1m electric cars in the US by 2015: in January the total was 280,000. Virgin boss Richard Branson, adept as ever at grabbing headlines, said this week that “no new road cars will be petrol driven” within 20 years, calling combustion engines “complicated and antiquated”. » Read the rest of this entry «
Forget illicit trysts on Hampstead Heath or an amorous evening at a boutique hotel. According to the French firm charged with bringing electric motoring to the capital, frisky young Londoners could soon be seeking intimacy in tiny battery-powered city cars.
The new red electric cars, unveiled to the public for the first time, are part of a £100m project that hopes to turn London into the “green driving” capital of the world and clean up its toxic air.
Before the cars had even got on the move, however, a company spokesman had already been quoted as saying that he expected the scheme to prove popular with young people – who have already used the firm’s cars in Paris to “make love” in. “They use them like a hotel. You can use them for anything,” a spokesman said.
With four seats, a good-sized boot, satellite navigation and a promised range of 150 miles, the Bolloré group’s new ride certainly has the legs for a late-night rendezvous.
The electric carssoon to be launched in London, following Blue Point’s take over of the Source London electric car scheme
It was rapidly made clear at the launch, however, that the spokesman’s comments from earlier in the week were merely a “joke” that was lost in translation – and that The Independent’s test in one of the first 10 cars to arrive in the UK would not involve sampling the capital’s more salacious hotspots.
And Christophe Arnaud, director of Bluepoint London, the Bolloré subsidiary running the charging-point network, was also anxious to point out that the firm was not expecting the cars to be impounded by the police on the hunt for those committing acts of public indecency.
First impressions on the car itself are not mind-blowing. The exterior was designed by the same firm that works with Ferrari, but lacks the supercar maker’s inherent sex appeal. And the faux-leather seats and cramped city-car interior hardly makes for a romantic proposition in sticky London summer heat.
Vincent Bollore, chairman of Bollore Group
While it’s hard to see many people ditching their Range Rovers for one, it’s nippy enough and will work extremely well as an inner-city runabout, which is exactly what it’s designed as.
It’s nippy and quick off the lights, boasts plenty of boot space and has already proved popular in Paris with 200,000 users signed up in the past four years. The as yet-unnamed scheme will allow drivers to rent one for as little as around £10 an hour. In preparation for the scheme’s first 50 cars, Bolloré has taken over the Source London charging network, with the aim of overhauling it entirely to allow a fleet of 3,000 battery-powered Bolloré cars on the road by 2018, making use of 6,000 planned charging points across the capital.
Vincent Bolloré, the chief executive of Bolloré Group, said that the new model would be an “electric car for the people” that would also reduce pollution.
There are currently 1,400 charging point for electric cars in the capital under the Source London scheme that London Mayor, Boris Johnson, set up in 2011 and Bolloré took over last year – but 40 per cent of these are currently out of order.
Critics also point out that the Bolloré scheme is running six months behind schedule after prolonged negotiations with all 27 town halls across London for access.
Stephen Knight, a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly, said Boris Johnson’s policies on electric cars have been “half-hearted and poorly implemented” and that the city needed a “rapid switch” to electric buses and taxis to tackle air pollution.
Driving force: Vincent Bolloré
French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, the chairman and chief executive of the group behind the new electric car scheme, has made his fortune by snapping up large stakes in troubled companies and now has interests in everything from communications to transport and logistics.
Bolloré began his career as an investment bank trainee at Edmond de Rothschild before taking control of the Bolloré Group in 1981. A close friend of the former French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, Bolloré transformed the struggling family business from a firm focusing on bible paper and cigarette paper to one of the 500 largest companies in the world.
Over a hundred electric vehicle industry experts from around the world met on 23 April at the Hotel Don Cándido in Terrassa to participate in the eMobility Workshop Network Event organised by Circontrol. Encouraging the use of electric vehicles and sustainable mobility is essential for energy efficiency and improving the environment, which are key challenges in the 21st century. This is clear to Circontrol, a manufacturing company based in Viladecavalls (Barcelona) founded in 1997. » Read the rest of this entry «
2016: “The government’s current air quality plan with respect to London is based on the very limited ambition of the previous mayor to tackle air pollution and isn’t enough to protect Londoners health,” said Khan. “I know from personal experience that the city’s air is damaging people’s health as I suffer from adult-onset asthma myself.”
Khan’s first major policy announcement after winning the mayoral election for Labour were new plans to tackle the capital’s air pollution. These include more than doubling the size of the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone.