August 18, 2022

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The city of Oslo plans to slash carbon emissions by 95% compared to 2009 levels...

The city of Oslo plans to slash carbon emissions by 95% compared to 2009 levels in the next 8 years. A major component of that plan is to electrify everything.

Einar Wilhelmsen is a member of the Green Party and the finance minister for Oslo. At the Nordic EV conference recently, he told Elbil, the Norwegian electric car association, “It is important that we stop selling fossil cars. That process must be turned off completely. It is clear that we will struggle to get rid of every fossil car sold now, so this should simply not happen anymore.”

The City Council plans to create a zero emissions zone in the center of the city where only electric vehicles will be permitted, a policy initiative that will encourage people to buy electric cars. In coming years, that zone will be expanded to cover more of the city. The city does not intend to ban the sale of gasoline- and diesel-powered cars and trucks. It believes its zero emissions zones will accomplish that goal without resorting to mandates.

Buses, Ferries, & Ice Rinks!

Norway has thousands of lakes, rivers, and fjords. Often, a ferry can shorten a trip by several hours. By January, every ferry serving the islands in and around Oslo will be powered by batteries. Come 2023, every city bus in the Ruter network will be electric, with a few minor exceptions. Oslo already has the Nordic region’s largest fleet of electric buses.

The city of Oslo’s fleet of municipal vehicles is rapidly transitioning to EVs. “We are almost finished replacing the municipality’s car fleet with electric cars on the passenger car front and now we are focusing on electric vans as well,” Wilhelmsen says. “We have a total of around 1300 municipal cars, and 70 to 80 percent of them are already electric.”

“We even have electrified the ice machines that make ice at our skating rinks,” he adds. “In addition, when we make agreements with large suppliers, we require them to use zero emission vehicles to transport them. All this means that, for the municipality’s part, we will soon have completely stopped using diesel and petrol. It’s a new era. We hardly need fossil fuels anymore. This is actually quite extraordinary.”

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Beyond Cars

Even though sales of cars with plugs now far outnumber sales of conventional cars, Wilhelmsen says EVs still only represent about a quarter of all cars on the road in Oslo. He expects that to climb to near 100% by the end of this decade. But the city is also investing heavily in ways to reduce the number of private cars in the city. “Our goal is not for as many people as possible to drive an electric car, but for no one to drive a fossil car,” says Wilhelmsen.

“We are investing heavily in traffic reduction,” he says. “Fewer cars, more car sharing, increased public transport share, and get more people to cycle and walk more. It is clear that keeping the toll rate for electric cars down and increasing it for fossil cars — or at least ensuring that they increase in pace — will be important to achieve these goals, and at the same time to send a clear signal that we should not have fossil cars in Oslo in the future.”

But that doesn’t mean the city wants the same number of cars on its streets as it has now, just so long as they are electric.

“The relative advantage should be preserved for a while longer but it is clear that when the electric car becomes normal, we can not keep the artificially low toll and parking fees. The most important thing is to preserve the competitive advantage of the electric car, so that we do not mess it up and make fossil cars more attractive again. We are also concerned with reducing car traffic in Oslo. So if the toll and parking tariffs become so low that electric cars out-compete public transport, that is not desirable in the long run.”

“Our goal is not for as many people as possible to drive an electric car, but for no one to drive a fossil car,” he says. Translation? Those economic inducements to drive EVs will be going away once the transition to electric cars is close to complete. Wilhelmsen also says the push to install public on-street charging will be managed so that EV owners will still prefer charging at home. “The dilemma is that if we in the municipality are too generous and build too many charging stations in the city, we take away some of the incentive for people to set up their own charging stations at home where possible.”

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The adoption of electric cars is proceeding so rapidly that Wilhelmsen feels the EV revolution has already been won, even it it is not yet complete. “There are constantly new types of machines and vehicles that can be electrified. We are now talking about electric excavators, vans and electric trucks. It’s important for us to be right there, where the front is now. For us, electric cars have become a completely everyday thing, it is almost strange not to buy an electric car in Oslo,” Wilhelmsen says.

16 Target Areas

The city of Oslo has create a comprehensive emissions reduction plan that includes preserving forest areas and wetlands. According to KlimaOslo, these are some of those targets:

  • Walking, cycling and public transport shall be the primary choices for transport in Oslo. Car traffic shall be reduced by one third by 2030, compared with the level in 2015.​
  • All private vehicles on Oslo’s roads shall have zero emissions by 2030. Public transport shall have zero emissions by 2028.​
  • All vans shall have zero emissions. All heavy-duty transport in Oslo shall have zero emissions or make use of sustainable, renewable fuel by 2030.​
  • Port operations and transport on the fjord shall have close to zero emissions.​
  • Building and construction work in Oslo shall be fossil-free, then zero emissions by 2030.​
  • Oslo shall have a circular waste and sewage management system based on reuse, material recovery, and energy recovery, which does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A larger share of energy production in Oslo shall be local, and various energy systems shall supplement and support each other.​
  • Buildings in Oslo shall utilize electricity and heat efficiently and reduce energy consumption.​
  • The City of Oslo shall facilitate reduced and more climate-friendly consumption among citizens and businesses. Goods and services required for the City of Oslo’s operations shall have low greenhouse gas emissions as a requirement. Oslo shall limit emissions related to the consumption of materials for buildings and infrastructure.​
  • The City of Oslo’s climate governance system shall be further developed. Climate targets shall govern the City of Oslo’s budgets, and the climate budget shall be incorporated into the City’s annual budgets. All relevant decisions shall take into account emission reductions and climate change.​
  • The City of Oslo shall have closer collaboration with the Government, regional government, and other major cities to ensure that the City develops into a zero-emissions city with the capacity to withstand future climate change.​
  • The City of Oslo shall collaborate with international bodies to obtain knowledge of the best climate solutions and to share experience and internationally disseminate climate solutions that can provide rapid cuts to emissions.
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Are Hansen, our chief foreign correspondent and head of CleanTechnica’s Norway desk, sent this information along to us. The planning is clear, comprehensive, and concise — qualities that are often lacking in other climate policy declarations, especially the warmed over tripe that emerged from the recent COP26 conference. What Oslo is doing should be a model for other governments, including the national government of Norway, which is still pushing for more fossil fuel production and investments.

The EV revolution is all well and good, but it can sometimes provide political cover for those who want to see things continue on much as they have for the past century. The crux of the problem is that we must stop extracting and burning fossil fuels if we are to have any realistic chance of keeping the planet from getting too hot for most humans to survive. One could say that Oslo “gets it.” Now we need more national, state, and local governments to “get it” as well and as soon as possible.


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