28 avr 22

EVs can bear the cold - trucks operational on Svalbard

Many people think electric vehicles (EVs) can’t tolerate cold weather. But there are few places in the world colder than Svalbard, Norway. And that’s exactly where Posten Norge, the Norwegian postal service, has put an electric truck into operation. Just for the record, Svalbard is one of the most northerly and coldest human inhabited places on earth.

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Posten Norge says all the vehicles it operates on Svalbard are now electric, the latest being a 19-ton Scania truck that has proven to work well in sub-zero temperatures. It is claimed to be the northernmost electric truck in operation, transporting parcels, letters and goods between the airport, post terminal and post office in Longyearbyen.

Svalbard is home to just over 1000 inhabitants and aside from a couple of months in the summer, the average temperature stays below zero, year-round. Cold weather is thought to be a hinderance to EV adoption because it’s believed electric car batteries suffer reduced performance in cold weather. Posten Norge’s testing of its electric fleet has proven otherwise.

Overcoming obstacles to EV adoption

Posten Norge’s Scania truck was thoroughly tested before being put into operation. First, in Eastern Norway, then it was driven 1600km to Tromsø, which is within the Arctic Circle.

“Everything was fine until we started passing Nord-Trøndelag. At that time, the charging infrastructure was not particularly good, but the vehicle functioned as just that.” said Kenneth Tjønndal Pettersen in Posten to NTB.

Last month, 83% of new cars operating in Norway were all-electric. Norway has been the fastest country in the world to adopt EVs. Although Posten Norge is now operating fossil-free vehicles on Svalbard, energy sources on the archipelago rely heavily on coal-fired power plants, which Norway plans to phase out in 2023.

If it works in Svalbard, it’ll work anywhere!

“After a few months in operation in Tromsø, Posten Norge chose to test the truck on Svalbard, where it has now been decided it will remain. If you get it on Svalbard, you can probably get it anywhere”, Pettersen commented. 

On the mainland, there is still a long way to go before Posten Norge becomes fossil-free. At the beginning of 2022, 37% of all the company’s vehicles had a non-fossil driveline.

The replacement of the heavier vehicles began a year ago. In total, they have five electric trucks and 65 new electric trucks on order. The goal is for 100 per cent of the vans and 80 per cent of the lorries to be fossil-free by 2030. 

It took a population like Norway’s to galvanise EV adoption and prove that sparse charging infrastructure, cold temperatures and lack of choice in available vehicles need not be barriers to “going green” in transport. Demand drove development and it seems the Norwegians are still eager to keep that story going, whereas other markets around the world are dragging their feet.

Image: Ole Berg-Rusten for Posten Norge

Authored by: Alison Pittaway