No, Oslo’s electric buses were not paralyzed by the cold

For several days now, there have been reports about the public transportation service in Oslo being completely disrupted due to the cold weather, which has prevented electric buses from operating.

We know that Norway is the European country with the highest sales of electric cars, representing well over half of new registrations as of 2023. The electrification of the vehicle fleet in Oslo and other major cities is progressing steadily. The cold weather affecting Scandinavia in recent days seems to have severely tested the operation of buses, but the situation is much less dramatic than reported by Italian and international media.

What’s happening in Norway?

In case you missed the news, January in Norway, and Scandinavia in general, started with record-breaking low temperatures, a cold spell not seen in 25 years. In northern Norway, Sweden, and Finland, temperatures reached -45 degrees Celsius, but the cold also affected the southern regions of Scandinavia, including Denmark and the Norwegian capital, located in the southern part of the country.

Image: Dagavisen.no

Ruter, the company managing public transportation in the Scandinavian capital, clarified the situation. In a press release on January 4, 2024, Ruter invited users to check the official app to verify departures because excessive snow in some areas was hindering transit. This refers to snow obstructing passage, regardless of the bus’s power source.

In response to social media complaints, Ruter sent an email stating that the situation was an “extreme exaggeration,” adding, “We have canceled, on average, between 50 and 100 departures out of over 4,000 daily routes for a few days.” They urged people not to make it more serious than it is.

Does the cold affect electric vehicles?

However, Ruter admitted that electric buses struggle in temperatures below freezing, addressing challenges by “adjusting charging schedules and fixing the charging infrastructure. This allows the electric bus fleet to operate as usual.

Extreme cold negatively affects all vehicles. In many cities, not just in Scandinavia but also in places like eastern Siberia, where temperatures often reach abnormal levels compared to Northern Europe, even internal combustion engines must remain running to avoid freezing. Anna Stefanopoulou, a mechanical engineering professor at the University of Michigan, confirms this, stating, “Every single propulsion system, whether it’s a battery or living beings like humans, doesn’t work well in the cold. Internal combustion engines also struggle to operate at low temperatures.”

For electric vehicles, the impact is more visible because batteries take longer to warm up and are slower to generate energy. This is evident in the performance drop of laptops and smartphones, more noticeable than in vehicles where the battery is as protected as possible. According to Stefanopoulou, at -12°C, an electric vehicle can lose between 30% and 40% of its range because up to two-thirds of the extra energy consumed is used solely for heating the interior of the car.

It’s a challenge that can be addressed with organization and planning, especially for urban buses with fixed and predetermined routes, and for a company that has personnel available to handle it.

Source: Dagavisen.no, Ruter Press Release, Euronews

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