The motley (star-studded) crew that paved the way for Norway’s EV revolution

An activist, a professor and the lead singer of A-ha drove a makeshift electrical automotive throughout Norway within the 80s, skirting street laws, to make some extent to the federal government that insurance policies round EVs wanted to vary. The stunning half? It labored

The halcyon days of the mid-80s – ripped denims, hair mousse, and that tune: A-ha’s Tackle Me, blasting from radios, lighting up MTV. 

The lyrics to steer singer Morten Harket’s shrill refrain could also be unforgettable for anybody of a sure age, however much less well-known is the band’s position in kickstarting an electrical automobile (EV) revolution again in its native Norway.

Right now, rather than homegrown synth-pop, it’s the Scandinavian nation’s plug-in automotive gross sales topping international charts, with EVs outselling fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 4 to 1 – the best market share on the earth. In line with some estimates, the nation crossed the tipping level – which analysts say is when EV gross sales attain 5 per cent of complete automotive gross sales – again in 2013. What bought the ball rolling was partly a joyride-with-a-mission that began over 30 years in the past by a few environmental upstarts, and a little bit assist from A-ha. 

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Architect Harald Røstvik’s environmental awakening was sparked within the mid-70s, when his homeland was within the grip of the North Sea oil rush. As an alternative of becoming a member of in, he rebelled, his concepts making him an outcast.

All people was working the place the cash was,” says Røstvik, now a professor of city design at Norway’s College of Stavanger. “I went in the other way, I grew to become type of an alien right here. I used to be ridiculed, so I began working in different international locations with the intention to survive.”

In 1985, Røstvik’s travels took him to Switzerland’s Tour de Sol, a solar-powered automotive rally throughout the Alps. A-ha, in the meantime, was on the peak of its international fame. “The band needed to donate some cash to an environmental organisation, however most of them have been about preserving timber and mountains,” recollects Røstvik. After they requested his recommendation, he proposed a provocative new protest group known as Bellona, which was reaping headlines in Norway on the time, with a string of exposés revealing hazardous waste dumps. 

As a result of we had Morten and Mags, we bought monumental consideration

Røstvik invited Frederic Hauge, the co-founder of Bellona, Harket and A-ha keyboardist Magne ‘Mags’ Furuholmen to the Tour de Sol. The press lapped it up, and the 4 capitalised on the eye by forking out £10,000 of their very own money – £25,000 in at present’s cash – on a prototype electrical automotive.

The Larel Wil 202 was primarily based on a transformed Fiat Panda, with the again seat ripped out to accommodate a large financial institution of batteries. Taking two days to cost and with a variety of simply 40 miles, on paper it appeared like a horrible joke. In the end although, Harket and co had the final giggle.

After transport it again to Norway, they did what any self-respecting pop group would do and commenced breaking guidelines – cruising in bus lanes, blasting by toll cubicles with out paying and parking illegally wherever they fancied, all whereas calling for tax breaks and incentives for inexperienced motoring, and, crucially, within the glare of the media highlight. 

Harald Røstvik and co have been rule-breakers with a conscience. Picture: Elisabeth Tønnessen

With out A-ha’s star high quality, the stunt may by no means have accelerated out of first gear. “As a result of we had Morten and Mags, we bought monumental consideration,” recollects Hauge. After we didn’t pay the fines, they confiscated the automotive to promote at public sale, however nobody was involved in a rebuilt Fiat Panda with a variety of 40km. It occurred many instances and we at all times managed to purchase it again.”

Over the subsequent decade, and past, the Norwegian authorities caved. “We broke them and embarrassed them,” says Røstvik. “We confirmed them there was an fascinating expertise right here, nevertheless it wanted incentives, and it was going to price cash.”

Within the late Nineties and early 2000s, these incentives began to materialise within the type of free parking and charging for EVs, toll exemptions and tax breaks. EV drivers bought entry to bus lanes and will experience ferries without cost – measures largely nonetheless in place at present, though just lately being watered down.  

We confirmed them there was an fascinating expertise right here, nevertheless it wanted incentives

Røstvik went on to make waves in sustainable design, merging transport electrification and his expertise as an architect to ascertain the cleaner, greener cities of tomorrow. However his skilled standing has been exhausting received. 

“We took a hammering for being idiots,” he says. “I used to be hammered by my very own colleagues in structure for collaborating with unserious individuals like pop stars. I used to be virtually excluded from skilled our bodies.

“That’s the sport that’s performed if you happen to tackle enormous financial pursuits like oil. If they might kill you, they’d – and I’m not joking.”

Harald Røstvik is now a professor of city design on the College of Stavanger, Norway. Picture: Elisabeth Tønnessen

For Hauge, after 30 years of activism, the wheel has turned full circle. He’s so near Tesla he’s been recognized to borrow Elon Musk’s private Roadster, and is poised to launch battery producer Morrow Batteries as a subsidiary of Bellona. “Once I begin on one thing, I don’t cease,” he says. “I comply with it for a lot of, a few years.”

Norway’s electrical imaginative and prescient is spilling over into different types of transport, too – boats, and short-hop flights, for instance, however Røstvik believes the actual progress has been in mindset. 

“The scenario at present is far simpler than it was 30 years in the past,” he says. “Again then, there was laughter throughout. Electrical automobiles, it would by no means be practical; photo voltaic vitality, by no means; wind energy a joke. And look the place we at the moment are. All the pieces has modified.”

3 ways to get the EV wheels turning the place you reside

Get energetic

“It’s very uncommon that you may tackle a nation like we did,” says Røstvik. “You want lots of sturdy individuals round you. However you possibly can tackle a area people.” He suggests getting energetic in native media and talking to native councils to demand electrification and charging factors in public locations and petrol stations.

“You want quick charging stations unfold out all through the nation,” says Røstvik. “However begin with the place you reside, the place you already know the politicians and may start to a minimum of strategy them.”

Picture: Maayan Nemanov

Vote along with your pockets

Change occurs when shoppers demand it, says Røstvik, which suggests demanding EVs from producers and automotive showrooms. “Present them they will generate profits on this,” he says.

“Automobile suppliers in Norway ridiculed EVs, now they make extra on them than fossil gasoline vehicles. It’s been a whole U-turn.”

Picture: Andrew Roberts

Net zero

Enhance native, renewable vitality

Norway is 96 per cent powered by renewable hydroelectricity, that means its EV infrastructure had a head begin over fossil fuel-reliant international locations just like the UK. “Electrifying the transport fleet in Norway was straightforward in comparison with many different international locations,” says Røstvik.

Nonetheless, the UK is properly suited to producing photo voltaic vitality, he provides. “Push for native vitality manufacturing. Push for photo voltaic on public buildings and make it obligatory on huge warehouses and factories – you’ve got roof house there which is gigantic. You possibly can hire that house out, or the house owners can get some assist to put in photo voltaic. It’s good enterprise!”

Picture: Sabrina Bracher

Major picture: Arkivverket/Røstvik’s recordsdata/Mikkelsen


This text is a part of Optimistic Tipping Factors, a collection about people who find themselves discovering methods to set off vital and cascading optimistic adjustments inside the local weather disaster. Produced by Optimistic Information in partnership with Imagine5.


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