Medieval Norwegian fortress repurposed as prison, bomb shelter & now charging station

Akershus Fortress is a medieval castle that was built (starting around the year 1290) to protect Oslo, the capital of Norway, from raids by bloodthirsty Swedes. Later in its life, it was repurposed as a prison. Still later, it became a Cold War bomb shelter.

Now, it’s being repurposed once again, this time to help save the Norwegian capital from more insidious foes: pollution and global warming. Starting this month, electric car owners will be able to drive down a narrow ramp between rough-hewn rock walls dripping with condensation and plug in at one of 86 charging stations—for free.

Charging area. Photo credit: Elbil.no

The facility will get plenty of use as Norwegians switch to electric vehicles faster than anyone else on the planet. More than a third of all new cars are either fully electric or plug-in hybrids, well over 10 times the proportion in the U.S.

With about 100,000 electrics on the road, Norway (population 5 million) trails only the U.S., China, and Japan in absolute numbers. By 2025, the government has suggested, there may be no gasoline- or diesel-powered cars sold in the country.

Of course, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, even as Norway tries to reduce emissions on the road, state-controlled oil company Statoil ASA is expanding oil exploration, pushing farther into the Arctic Sea. “We have a very hypocritical policy,” says Daniel Rees, an adviser on transportation and the environment for the opposition Green Party. “The government is trying to create this image that we are a leader in saving the world from climate change, when we are actually one of the main contributors to it.

Others feel that, as long as a country is going to depend on oil revenues, the least it can do is to invest a portion of that money (a substantial portion, in Norway’s case) in creating a fossil fuel-free future for the entire world.

Feature photo by Tomasz Sienicki via Wikipedia.

See Bloomberg Businessweek article by Matthew Campbell.

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