Oslo’s first electric taxi driver
“It feels good to help make the air cleaner,” says Trond Gustav Sømme. He is Oslo’s first electric taxi driver, and he looks forward to many more colleagues joining him.
When Trond Gustav Sømme started driving taxis in 1979, the taxi lines was dominated by gas-powered Mercedes. They stood in rows at the stops and spewed exhaust from humming engines idling to keep the drivers warm.
“There was a violent vibration from the cars. And the noise, quite a lot of noise,” remembers Sømme.
He did not think much about it at the time, not until he became ill in 2010. Sømme had to undergo serious heart surgery at Ullevål Hospital, and that made the experienced driver think.
“That winter they were two or three weeks when warnings went out on the radio that those with heart and lung problems should not stay outdoors in Oslo. And then I thought that when this affects me personally, there must be some truth to this.”
“How can I help change the situation,” he asked himself.
His health problems made Trond Sømme think in a new way, and he asked himself: How can I help change the situation? (Photo: Hampus Lundgren/Oslo European Green Capital 2019)
Charging in the garage
For Sømme the solution was to buy a Nissan Leaf, which became Oslo’s first electric taxi. Admittedly, it had some limitations; He could only drive a few hours a day, and in the winter, the range was more limited due to the cold. The industry was skeptical.
“There was probably some fun made at my expense, but the customers and most people were very positive. The industry is quite conservative, at least when it comes to cars. Driving an electric car requires that you plan trips and charging times. So I understand why people were skeptical, I really do,” admits Sømme.
In 2013, he bought a Tesla and things started to get easier. There were still only two fast charging stations in the Oslo area, and trips were planned in relation to these. At night, the car was parked in Linderud in the outskirts of Oslo and charged for a new day of driving.
“Fortunately, I eventually got a charging installation in my own garage in Kampen downtown, and since then I have never had any problems with the driving range,” says Sømme.
It was not rare for Trond Gustav Sømme to get a thumbs-up from cyclists and pedestrians on the road. Today electric cars are a more common sight, so it does not happen as often. Nevertheless, Sømme believes that 99 percent are positive that he drives an electric taxi.
“It is a bit funny, because I have experienced that young children come to me and say thank you for driving an electric taxi and for helping to keep the air clean and nice. I don’t think many other taxi drivers have experienced that.”
His wife is proud
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” is Trond Gustav Sømme’s motto. He does not feel that he is any better than other people, he merely makes his contribution on the road.
“I have gone ahead, and shown that what many thought was impossible, is possible – namely to be a driver of an electric taxi. In that sense I am an environmentalist,” says Sømme proudly.
“It feels good to contribute,” he adds. His wife is proud of him. He has talked to people from the asthma and allergy association, who praise him for his effort. He himself belongs to the group of people living with heart problems, who also benefit from cleaner air in Oslo.
“I think it will happen a lot in the next few years. Children and young people are no longer so keen on driving a car, and car sharing and finding other options is becoming easier. It is actually mostly men of my age, who have trouble understanding that we must change.”
He thinks it is well deserved that Oslo has been named European Green Capital, and hopes the city will take this opportunity to talk about the benefits of taking environmentally friendly choices.
“It is part of the development, and it feels good and right to be a part of it!”
FACTS ABOUT ELECTRIC CARS IN OSLO
Currently, Oslo has 1780 taxis. The goal is for all to have zero emission technology by 2022.
Taxi drivers can apply for funding from the municipality’s climate and energy fund to have a charging station installed.
Today, the share of passenger cars with low or zero emission technology is 57 % in Oslo.
The share of electric cars that pass the toll ring increased from 10.5% in 2017 (January – 31 August) to amount to 16.2% in 2018 (January-31 August), according to the 2018 Climate Barometer.
And 60 % of all new cars sold in Oslo in 2018 were electric.