Elon Musk flew to Oslo, Norway this week to attend a conference on the future of transportation. He used the occasion to praise Norway for its commitment to renewable energy and sustainability. The country plans to slash its carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Part of that plan calls for banning the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles after 2025. During her remarks before the conference, prime minister Erna Solberg said Norway is in a “unique position to change. It’s really about building the country again and building it green.”
Norway is certainly putting its money where its mouth is, something the many US politicians refuse to do. Instead, they mouth the standard phrases they are paid to say by wealthy patrons like the Koch Brothers. They blatheron about how climate change is just a theory and that polar ice sheets tend to spontaneously self destruct from time to time. it’s normal. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Norway has put in place a range of powerful incentives to encourage people to buy low emissions and zero emissions cars. As a result, it has the highest level of EVs on the road in Europe. Those incentives are one of the reasons Norway is Tesla’s largest European market
Norway is blessed with abundant hydroelectric power. In fact, 90% of the country’s energy needs come from hydro. It currently exports excess electricity to other European nations and is planning a new high voltage undersea transmission line to the UK. “Norwegians should be proud,” Musk told the audience. “You’re in the front seat and a world leader in this field. There is a huge potential for growth in Norwegian hydropower. It can, in combination with high efficiency power lines over long distances, actually cover a very significant proportion of Northern Europe’s electricity needs.”
Musk has a habit of dropping little tidbits of new information during his public appearances. His visit to Norway was no exception. He has long been fascinated with how to relieve congestion in the world’s most densely populated cities. He says he actually got the idea for his wildly innovative Hyperloop while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles.
“We have an idea for something which is not exactly a bus but would solve the density problem for inner city situations,” he said at the conference. “I have to be careful what I say.” Then we went on to say it anyway. “I very much agree with solving the high-density urban transport problem. There’s a new type of car or vehicle that would be great for that and that’ll actually take people to their final destination and not just the bus stop.”
One of the issues that people have with public transportation is that it won’t pick you up at at your door and won’t drop you off where you want to go. Many don’t care for standing around in the rain waiting for a bus. Others with physical handicaps can’t get to or from a traditional bus stop. It seems pretty clear that what Musk is talking about is an electric vehicle that is larger than a car but smaller than a typical city bus.
Operated autonomously, it could use advanced route planning software to provide the door to door service people want and do it efficiently. The concept is really an expansion of the transportation pods in use in various places around the globe and destined for Singapore later this year. Clearly, despite involvement in the launch of the Tesla Model 3, colonizing Mars, and building the Hyperloop, Musk still has room in his brain for other creative ideas. If he is dropping hints like this in public, it’s likely his minions are already hard at work designing this new urban transport system.