Arctic cold or not, electric cars are taking off in Norway
This word has entered the general vocabulary in Norway: “rekkevideangst”. Philip Benassi was well aware of this anxiety of electric vehicle autonomy behind the wheel of his Tesla, especially on cold winter days, but like his compatriots, he learned to tame it.
Frequent frosts, difficult terrain, long distances… Norway is not an ideal playground for an electric car that loses range in frosty weather.
However, the Nordic country is the undisputed world champion in the adoption of these vehicles.
A record last year: four out of five new cars (79%) were electric in the major oil-producing kingdom, where the official goal is to phase out heat engines for new registrations from 2025. It’s ten years. Before the European Union.
By comparison, electric vehicles accounted for 12.1% of new car sales in the EU in 2022, according to statistics published by the European Manufacturers Association (ACEA) on Wednesday.
In 2018, Philip Benassi, who was involved in the commercial activities of the cosmetics group, took a step towards electricity. In his shiny Tesla S, this 38-year-old Norwegian swallow covers between 20 and 25,000 kilometers a year.
Like most new “elbilisters” – electric car owners – he experienced early on the anxiety of seeing the battery gauge drop rapidly.
With the dream of getting to zero, it’s the equivalent of running out of fuel on an empty country road.
“I didn’t know the car well enough. But after all these years, I know roughly how many kilowatts it uses, and it varies depending on whether it’s sitting outside or in the garage,” he says.
“Battery capacity decreases in winter. If the car is left outside at -10/-15°C, we use more battery and it takes enough time for the consumption to normalize,” he explains. .
The loss of autonomy in the cold season depends on the model of the car and the severity of the cold.
“However, the general rule is that a frost of about -10 ° C will reduce the range by about a third compared to summer weather, and a severe freeze (-20 ° C or more)” up to half” consultant Vesa Linja-aho.
“This phenomenon can be somewhat reduced by keeping the car in a heated garage,” the expert adds.
When should it be filled? Where? From how many? These questions concern first-time users. It’s all a matter of habit and planning before long trips.
Various applications from car manufacturers and Norway’s extensive network of fast and super-fast charging points — more than 5,600 — fortunately help solve the equation.
In a sign that the problem is not insurmountable, electric cars accounted for 54% of new registrations in Finnmark, the country’s northernmost region, last year. Located in the heart of the Arctic, it holds a spine-tingling national record: the mercury has dropped to -51°C.
Other Nordic countries accustomed to subzero temperatures, such as Iceland (33.3% of those registered in 2022) or Sweden (32.9%), are also world leaders in fully electric cars.
“More and more electric cars have battery preheating systems, which is smart because it increases the range and the car charges faster if it’s heated,” said Kristina Bu, secretary general of the Norwegian Association.
“In fact, in very, very cold, freezing temperatures, sometimes diesel cars can’t start, unlike electric cars,” he notes.
The Norwegians have managed to fold in any case: more than 20% of their cars in circulation now run on pure electricity – another good point – since they are almost exclusively of hydraulic origin.
Norwegian policy is proactive, with heat engines taxed more highly than electric engines – even as the government began cutting those financial advantages last year to cover a deficit of around 40 billion kroner (€3.8 billion).
“The recipe for success in Norway is a green tax,” concludes Kristina Bu. “We tax the ones we don’t like, the petrol cars, and encourage the electric cars we like. It’s as simple as that,” he adds.
And “If Norway can do it, anyone can.”