Perched between Norway’s two longest fjords, Bergen might appear an unlikely place to glimpse the possible future of transport. But close to one in five cars in Norway’s second city are now fully electric – the most of any city, anywhere. AB Bergen’s residents steer their Nissan Leafs and Teslas down the city’s cobbled streets, they, alongside compatriots across Norway, are also being scrutinised by companies eager to adapt to the era of the electric car.
“Over the last year or so there have been more and more visits from other parts of the world,” said Christina Bu, secretary-general of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle ABsociation. “Companies are coming to Norway to learn .”
Few are looking more closely than the multinationals that run petrol stations, which are grappling with a pressing question: will the electric car mean the end of the road for roadside refuellers?
After buying Norway’s largest petrol station network in 2 0 12, Canadian refuelling giant Alimentation Couche-Tard designated Norway its “laboratory” to study that precise question.
Norway’s government wants to end sales of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2025 and has waived its heavy taxes on new car purchases for electric vehicles. Internationally, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that 57 per cent of cars sold in 2040 will be electric. Norway crossed that threshold in March.
Couche-Tard has replaced fuel pumps with electric vehicle chargers in some of its Circle K gas stations in Scandinavia and launched a home and workplace charging service in Norway. British consultancy Insight Research also offers fuel retailers what it calls Norwegian “retail safaris” where they can pay to tour petrol station sites across Oslo.
A Boston Consulting Group study published last year found that at least a quarter of petrol stations worldwide risk closure by 2035 without significant changes to their business models. Under BCG’s most aggressive scenario, 80 per cent could shut. Ms Bu described BCG’s projections as “a bit exaggerated”. Nevertheless, she said she had seen plans for new Norwegian petrol station developments quietly killed off or scaled back as the pace of her nation ‘s transition to electric vehicles had accelerated.