DREAM OR REALITY – I’ve seen things that you humans… more charging stations than fuel dispensers and more cars to refuel from the former than from the latter… Ecologist’s dream, oilman’s nightmare or the preview of what could happen? The last idea is right: lo scenario is the Norwegian one today, the reality of a country which, thanks to some of its particular characteristics, has already taken the path of electric mobility for years, albeit with various contradictions.
STUNNING NUMBERS – Statistics give the Nordic country a place that seems out of this world: 80% of new car sales in 2022 it consisted of cars electric, which were already 50% of the total in 2019 (this figure is at the origin of Hyundai’s decision to stop selling combustion cars in Norway from this year). For comparison, the Biden administration aims to reach this percentage in 2030 while in Norway already in 2025 will cease the sale of cars with internal combustion engines. This country is very particular: it has only 5.5 million residents in a territory larger than Italy and hydroelectric energy is abundant. At the same time, given the instability caused by the conflict in Ukraine, the Norwegian exports of fossil fuels they marked a new record reaching 162 billion euros. If environmentalists grumble, noting that “we are exporting pollution” and remembering asking zero oil and gas production by 2035, the government does not intend to decrease production. Amund Vik, the secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy, heard from the New York Timesrecalls that “we have several fields in production, or under development, which provide energy security for Europe”.
THE NETWORK HAS RIGHT – This long history of electricity has led to other “heavy” data: in Norway one in 5 cars is electric and only one in 10 is not hybrid or battery-powered, numbers that are world records. There earliness of this push towards electric cars also derives from nationalistic reasons: the governments wanted to support the start-up Think, focused on electric vehicles and for some time in the orbit of Ford. Battery powered vehicles they then began to be exempt from value added taxes, import duties and motorway tolls. The government has also subsidized the construction of fast-charging stations, essential in a country where the sparse population is spread across a country almost the size of California. Despite the widespread use of electric vehicles energy demand increased little also because most owners charge their cars at night (although there is still a certain shortage of condominium charging points), when demand is lower and energy is cheaper. The imbalances in the grid were minor and the energy provider in and around Oslo, Elvia, had to install only a few new substations and transformers, provisions that could be sufficient, pending the bidirectional V2G exchange, also in Italy (Who the news).
EMPLOYMENT IN CHIAROSCURO – Il New York Times also reported that the effects on employment for dealers and workshops are still contained: Electric vehicles require less maintenance than petrol cars, but they still need it and there are many internal combustion engine cars, including hybrids, that will need maintenance for years. In the meantime yes they are setting up new businesses connected to electric cars, such as the one created in a former steel mill that has become a battery recycling centre. This plant is from Hydrovolt, a joint venture between aluminum producer Norsk Hydro and Northvolt, the battery maker that could help lessen Europe’s dependence on China (Who to know more). Dealerships of traditional brands that already have electric cars in the range, such as Volkswagen and Volvo, have simply seen part of their business shift from thermal to electric. For them the biggest pitfall comes from brand names such as i Chinese BYD and Xpeng and Tesla (the Model Y was the third best-selling model in the world in 2022, Who the news), whose share in the sector is 30% compared to 19% for the Volkswagen/Skoda/Audi triad.
THE SOLUTION IS… PEDESTRIAN – The slow charging it can also be an opportunity as discovered by gas station chain Circle K. The company has noticed that people who refill spend more time at gas stations and this increases their consumption of food and other services even if the fuel remains a important source of revenue. Oslo’s experience also affects public transport – all city buses will be electric by this year and many local ferries are electric – and construction. In fact, the builders who participate in municipal tenders have a better chance of winning the contract if they use equipment and electric construction equipment. These combined actions have already produced dramatic decreases in the levels of nitrogen oxides, compounds blamed for causing smog, asthma and other ailments, to the point that Tobias Wolf, Oslo’s chief air quality engineer, said “We are on the verge to solve the NOX problem”.
THE PARTICULATE – The diffusion of electric vehicles however emphasizing the particulate problem produced by tyres and asphalt: electric vehicles are heavier than cars with internal combustion engines and this causes more abrasion and the release of micro-dust. And if the particulate produced by the brakes decreases, thanks to regenerative braking, and can be further reduced by suction systems (Who to find out more), that of tires can be decreased with increasingly lighter vehicles.