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The Norwegian transport sector puts climate in the driving seat

December 14, 2020
By The Explorer
action shot of busses driving past bus stop in Oslo neighbourhood

Redink/Krister Sørbø

The transportation sector is in transition all across the world. Norway has already come far in exploring sustainable solutions.

Transport is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Norway, accounting for 31 per cent of the country’s emissions. Reducing these emissions will require innovations in all segments of the transport value chain.

    Attractive incentives boost the number of electric vehicles

    Norway has long been a global leader in using electric vehicles (EVs). This is due in great part to a longstanding incentive scheme encouraging people and businesses to switch to EVs.

    As a result, Norway has by far the largest market share of EVs of any country in the world. In 2020, for the first time, more than 50 per cent of new cars sold were electric cars. In total, approximately 10 per cent of cars on Norwegian roads are EVs, and this number will continue to climb as electric car sales continue to rise.

      Making maritime passenger transport and shipping greener

      More and more modes of transport are becoming greener. In the maritime sector in Norway, ships and ferries are making the transition from polluting fossil fuels to hybrid-electric and fully electric solutions. Opportunities for creating a market for new green marine fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen are also being explored.

      The private and public sectors in Norway have joined forces and established the Green Shipping Programme. One of the programme’s most ambitious projects is the Yara Birkeland – the world’s first fully electric, autonomous container ship. The emission-free ship will replace 40 000 road freight trips annually to transport Yara’s fertiliser from the company’s factory near Porsgrunn to terminals further south in Brevik and Larvik. This will reduce carbon emissions by 750 metric tons. The launch of the Yara Birkeland was originally scheduled for 2020, but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


      Yara Birkeland zero-emission, autonomous container ship.

      As for passenger transport by sea, requirements for energy efficiency and emissions are now weighted in all public procurement tenders for ferries in Norway. Thanks to this, there will be a total of 70 all-electric and hybrid ferries in operation along the Norwegian coastline by 2021. The first electric ferry went into operation in 2015. Now the Norwegian company Brødrene AA and its partners have developed a hydrogen fast ferry for longer routes that cannot be covered by battery-powered ferries.

        Electrification has reached the tourism industry as well. Brødrene AA built the sightseeing boat Future of the Fjords, an electric catamaran that holds 400 passengers and has been sailing the Sognefjord since May 2018. Meanwhile, the hydro-electric catamaran Brim offers a unique tourist experience through the use of underwater microphones, cameras and drones, allowing passengers to see what is happening both below and above the surface. Both boats are entirely emission free.


        Future of the Fjords zero-emission sightseeing boat.

        Innovative solutions for public transport in urban areas

        There are a myriad of benefits to a green transition in the public transport sector as well. New technology will not only reduce emissions, but it can also improve freedom of movement and boost safety and security.

        Ruter – the company that covers the greater Oslo region – has set a clear standard for environment-friendly public transport in the future. Ruter has stated that all the modes of transport it operates, including buses, boats, minibuses and taxis, will become entirely emission free by 2028. The company calls this an ambitious, yet realistic goal.

          To ease traffic congestion in urban areas, concepts for moving public transport on to waterways are being explored. The Norwegian Centre of Expertise (NCE) Maritime CleanTech is developing the high-speed, zero-emission Urban Water Shuttle. The Urban Water Shuttle will run on battery power and connect city populations without needing roads. Given that eight of the 10 largest cities in the world are located by the coast – and most major inland cities are located by a river – such solutions can make a substantial difference.

            To get city dwellers to leave their cars at home and take public transport, systems must be developed to make this easy. Entur works to increase the use of public transport in Norway, and runs a national registry containing data from all public transport operators in the country. This data is open and free for use by app and service developers. Entur also uses the data in a route planner for door-to-door journeys across Norway. This is just the start in terms of what collections of open data can be used for in the future.