In a shocking new development, electric car owners in Russia’s northern capital of Murmansk will by mid-summer have a place to charge their vehicles for free, thanks to an e-car outlet the Bellona Foundation has given the city.
The new charge station at the city’s Park Inn hotel will be able to charge two electric or hybrid cars at once for free, and represents the first stationary e-car charge point in Russia’s Arctic capital. It will open in July.
The station represents the culmination of a trek the Bellona Foundation made three years ago when its president, Frederic Hauge, made the first known trip with an electric car from Oslo to Murmansk, stopping to charge in Kirkenes on the Russian-Norwegian border. While in Murmansk, the group refueled its Tesla Model S by running an extension cord out a window from a 220V outlet inside the city’s Park Inn hotel.
Now, to mark Russia’s Year of the Environment, the hotel is getting an upgrade: an EVlink Parking AC 7-22 kW, 2 – type 2 RFID charge station that it hopes will become an attraction to Russian and European visitors alike, said the hotel’s director Andrei Milokhin.
“Aside from the ecological aspect, we as boosters of Murmansk, are glad our city is again ahead of many other cities in environmental areas,” Milokhin said. “We truly hope that more and more tourists will visit our region in electric cars, and that the number of electric cars will get bigger and bigger.”
Bellona and Milokhin started talks on the new charge station during that initial visit of Hauge’s Tesla in 2014. At the time, locals gawked at Bellona’s electric car a little like they would at a UFO, and Hauge offered the throng of local TV crews a spin.
Since then, the Russian government has made a modest push to bring e-cars a little bit closer to earth. In 2015, Russian electric utility Rosseti and Alabama-based Schneider Electric – which makes the Park Inn’s charge station – launched a collaboration to boost the number of EV charge points in Moscow.
The same year, the Kremlin announced a one-year moratorium on import taxes for electric cars. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an initiative to produce a Russian-made electric car as a centerpiece to revitalizing the country’s ailing auto industry over the next decade.
Ownership of electric cars in Russia still has not spiked as it has in Norway or other European countries, however, much less in Murmansk, where there are said to be only five electric car owners. But, as is the case in many places, starting on the infrastructure for electric cars will likely spark a growth in the number of people willing to buy them.
“The charging station is a unique gift from Bellona to Murmansk residents,” said Bellona’s General Director Nils Bøhmer, who was in Murmask last week. ”Three years ago, we came in our Tesla and everybody asked us ’where can you charge an electric car?’”
Now that they know where to go, Bøhmer said he hopes the new charge station will mark the beginning of a new wave of electric and hybrid car ownership in Russia.
Such were the modest beginnings in Norway, where in 1989, Hauge and Belllona brought thier first electric car over the border from Sweden and charged it up on an outlet at Bellona’s office. It took more than three years to clear the bureaucratic hurdles to make Norwegian roads accommodating to e-cars. The technology was in its infancy as well: Hauge’s car could only go 45 kilometers before it needed to recharge.
In 1995, Hauge joined forces with Morten Harket, the lead man for the 80s Norwegian heartthrob act A-Ha, to showcase the environmental benefits of electric mobility. The two hit Norway’s open road – and blew through its expensive tolls by refusing to pay up.
Their freewheeling civil disobedience led to Oslo carving out generous tax incentives, easing road tolls and offering free e-car charging parking spots for electric car owners that helped spearhead a high-voltage revolution in the country.
The tactic worked. By 2016, electric cars represented more than 15 percent of all the cars on Norwegian roads, and the government is pushing to make the country’s vehicles all electric by 2025.
Today, said Bøhmer, there are over 100,000 electric cars in Norway – no small feat for a country of 5 million people.
”That’s 100,000 cars without tailpipes and that don’t pollute,” Bøhmer said. ”We figured, why couldn’t we do the same for Murmansk?”
The beginnings are slow, but the initiative is finding traction with the local government. Murmansk’s deputy governor Yevgeny Nikora told Bellona he’d bought into the future by pre-ordering an E-Mobil, Russia’s natively produced answer to the Toyota Prius.
But Nikora has yet to get his new car. Serial production of the E-Mobil crunched in 2014 – but not before 200,000 people in Russia had likewise put in pre-orders alongside Nikora.
That’s a lot of desire for electric and hybrid cars in a country that first got a peek at them only a little more than three years ago. When Russian industry finally gets it together to start producing it’s own hybrids and e-cars, drivers in Murmansk will know where to charge them up.