Electrifying Norway – A Plan for Heavyweight Vehicles

The “Green Shift” of Norway is in full action. The country has achieved significant progress in electrifying public and private passenger transport. What’s more, heavyweight sectors such as freight transport, shipping, fjord traffic and even aviation are to be transformed as well. Politics, industry and NGOs are pushing the envelope to enable the “Silent Revolution”.

Transport accounts for a large part of Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions (31%). The step by step decarbonisation of Norway’s transport system is one of the main goals of its National Transport Plan 2018–2029. The aim is to reduce emissions by 50 % until 2030 and to be carbon neutral in 2050. We have already talked about how the transformation is proceeding in private and public passenger transport. But how about the heavy transport sector?

Silent Revolution on the Sea

Being a nation of seafarers, in Norway ferries and vessels play a significant role in transport – with a share of 9% of the greenhouse gases. Therefore, the National Transport plan provides for all new ferries and speed boats to run on biofuels or other low or zero-emission technology. By 2030, 40% of all ships in local shipping are to run on biofuels or be low-/zero emission vessels. Electrical power and charging power have to be available for ships in major ports by 2025.

World’s Most Environment-Friendly Fleet

It’s not a surprise, that Norway leads the world in the transition to battery technology for shipping. To maintain the country’s leadership position, the Green Shipping Coastal Programme has been initiated. The cooperation between government and industry aims to create the world’s most environment-friendly fleet. “Norwegian coastal shipping can become a global showcase, an incubator and platform for Norwegian export of environmental technology and green transport services“, says Amund Drønen Ringdal, Leader of the Steering Committee, Green Shipping Programme. As a result, the first full-electric and hybrid ferries are already in operation. And 70 partly or fully electric ferries are already commissioned to take over transport by 2022.

The Tesla of the Seas 

One of the programme’s most ambitious projects is the Yara Birkeland – the world’s first fully electric, autonomous container ship. Due for launch in the course of 2020, the emission-free ship will replace 40 000 road freight trips annually to transport Yara’s fertilizer from the company’s factory to terminals, reducing carbon emissions by 750 metric tons. Yara Birkeland has received tremendous attention from businesses, academia and the media. The Wall Street Journal was referring to it as “The Tesla of the Seas”. Nevertheless, Yara, with a carriage of just 120 TEU, a service speed of 6 knots, and a reach of 30 nautical miles can’t yet compete with today’s state-of-the-art diesel container vessels. Those carry 150 times as many boxes over distances 400 times as long at speeds three to four times as fast as the pioneering electric ship can handle.

© Yara International ASA

10 Times more Energy Density needed

The conclusion is obvious. To have an electric ship whose performance could compare with containerships, we would need batteries with an energy density more than 10 times as high as today’s best Lithium units. To drive the development of batteries forward, recently Siemens opened a new battery factory in Trondheim. In her speech during the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Erna Solberg emphasized the urgent need to improve battery-technology and energy-storage.

Future of the Fjords, the First All Electric Cruise

In the current stage, ferries and cruise ships are well-suited for electrification, because:

  • Short distances and long periods of time at the same ports make charging quite convenient.
  • Electric ferries will significantly reduce multi-colored oil slicks commonly seen pooling around ferry terminals.
  • Battery-driven ferries will reduce noise and pollution in the cities and the fjords.

The Sightseeing Boat Future of the Fjords is the first fully electric, zero-emission vessel. Operating in the Western Norwegian UNESCO World Heritage-listed region, it enables totally unspoiled enjoyment of nature. The cruise boat was launched in 2018 and immediately honored with the prestigious “Ship of the year-Award” by Norwegian Shipping Magazine SKIPSREVYEN. The builders are convinced that the technology solutions from Future of The Fjords are transferable to other vessel concepts and marine industries worldwide.

Hydro Trucks as part of the Zero Emission Puzzle

In Norway, there are around 80.000 trucks on the road. As batteries for heavy-duty vehicles are still in their infancy, Hydrogen seems to be the more favorable technology. Hydrogen has a very high energy to weight ratio, only emits water and is obtained from renewable energy. To reduce emissions on Norway’s motorways, the country plans to bring 1000 hydrogen trucks to the road in 2030.

Urban Duty Vehicles Most Fit for Electrification

Nevertheless, on shorter distances, there are still opportunities for battery-driven trucks. Tesla received an order for 2 electric trucks from the duty-free retailer Travel Retail Norway to move goods from the warehouse to major airports. In order to decarbonize urban utility vehicles, Oslo has launched the first electrified waste collection truck. As with ferries, urban utility vehicles are very suitable for electrification. They drive shorter distances and provide a solution to air and noise pollution. Last but not least, they offer the benefit of lower maintenance costs and fuel savings.

© Tesla, Inc.

Battery-Driven Airplanes About to Take-Off

In Norway the electrification of transport doesn’t stop on the ground or on the water. Recently it is taking-off in the air. There are more than 200 electrical aircraft projects out there today. Avinor and the aviation industry partners are aiming to make Norway a world leader in electric aviation. What sounds like science-fiction is about to come true. “We expect to see electrified aircrafts in Norway within a decade”, says Olaf Mosvold Larsen, Manager of the carbon reduction program at Avinor. “By 2040 all domestic air traffic should be electrified.”

Norway’s inbound traffic is well-suited for electrification, as there are a lot of short-haul flights to destinations that due to difficult landmarks can hardly be reached by other vehicles. About 1.1 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved with the electrification of domestic flights. Please watch the full interview here.

Given the ambitious plans for electrifying Norway, we can only keep our fingers crossed that the development of battery-technology will progress soon to allow better performance – especially in the heavy transport and aviation sector.



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