Travelers to Oslo, Norway can expect to move around fossil fuel-free by next year, when the city plans to unveil the world’s first fully electric public transit system.
A deal to replace the city’s remaining diesel-fueled buses with 450 electric ones by the end of 2023 was announced in October. The move will round out Oslo’s all-electric public transit offerings, which already includes a network of electrified trains, trams, and ferries, as well as more than 200 electric buses already in operation.
Developed in response to climate change, the city’s emissions-slashing transit strategy is also aimed at improving public health by reducing air pollution—which is the greatest threat to public health for Europeans, according to a United Nations report released this fall; more than 300,000 premature deaths were attributed to air pollution in the E.U. in 2019. While Oslo has steadily reduced its emissions in recent years, road traffic is behind the city’s largest emissions output today.
Øystein Dahl Johansen, spokesperson for Ruter, the public transport authority for Oslo, Norway explains that the new bus fleet will also be quieter and more comfortable for passengers. “Many of the old diesel buses that are being replaced are around 10 years old, and have old technology and comfort standards,” he says.
The bus purchase agreement represents a 500 million kroner ($51.3 million) investment for Oslo, which city officials say will translate to savings long-term. While electric buses might have higher upfront capital costs than standard diesel buses (averaging around $750,000 versus $500,000 in the U.S.), proponents say they ultimately carry lower operations and maintenance costs.
"The maintenance is cheaper, it's also cheaper for the operators of the electric buses," Sirin Stav, Oslo's Vice Mayor for Environment and Transport, told Reuters. "All in all, this is a win-win situation,” she said.
While Ruter doesn’t anticipate that the move to electric will increase ridership within the transit system, Johansen says that, in the bigger picture, it makes Oslo a more attractive destination for visitors and residents alike. “Emission-free public transport makes Oslo a better city to live in, with less air pollution and less noise,” he says.
The city’s move toward electric transportation fans further out, too: Oslo tourists might opt in for electrified taxis, airport shuttle buses, rental cars, and tour buses. In fact, electric vehicles now outnumber gas cars on Oslo’s roads.