EV Road Trip: An Architectural Tour of Norway at Polestar 2

The idea to venture to Valdres, a remote valley four hours north of Oslo in a nerve-wracking electric car. Where will we ship? How do we ship? What would happen if we collapsed into the Norwegian forest? My companion Maja Astikainen, a photographer from Helsinki, was equally concerned.

She’s driving a VW Transporter that she’s turned into a pickup truck. It runs on biogas and in Finland, it can fill up everywhere. In London, I drive a Volvo XC60 hybrid and outside my house is a charging point that is usually either broken (Camden Council, note) or tripped by a non-electric car.

Polestar 2 at the company’s Polestar HQ in Gothenburg, designed by Bornstein Lyckefors Architects.

My anxiety, the Polestar team reassured me, because I’m British. In 2021, 65 percent of all cars sold in Norway were electric. As a result, there will be charging points everywhere. Of course, we had our own set of cables in the hood if we needed them, and we could always call Polestar’s new Norwegian head office, Polestar Space Oslo, if things really went wrong.

The first of many Polestar spaces to open around the world, the Oslo Space takes the same path of minimalist, anti-car construction as that outlined by the company’s elegant HQ building in Gothenburg, designed by Swedish architects Bornstein Lyckefors.

Polestar 2 at the company’s Polestar Space in Oslo

Our ride was the Polestar 2, the second car made by Sweden’s newest car company. The Polestar 2’s interior looks faintly familiar, with knobs, knobs and graphics similar to the two Volvo’s. (Polestar is owned by Volvo and Geely, a China-based group that manufactures electric cars.)

But here the comparisons end. The Polestar 2 has vegan upholstery, and frameless mirrors that dim bright lights in the dark. It’s so cool to drive in comparison to my noisy old-fashioned cousin who is a portable camper run by my school. I open the door by sliding my hand along a metal bar and Maya adjusts her seat straight up a bit, to give more of a ‘truck perspective’.

Polestar 2 at the company’s Polestar Space in Oslo

Feeling like Thelma and Louise are racing into the unknown, families are left in our (non-existent) exhaust fumes. Then we turn off the GPS. Oslo to Vang (our stopping point) is a 453 km round trip; There are four charging stations along our route. By clicking on them, we can see how much battery we will have by the time we reach both of them.

We decided to stop when the battery was at 30 percent, so that if the charging point was busy or not working, there was another point along the way within our charging range. We feel arrogant because we have a backup plan.

Polestar 2 at the company’s Polestar Space in Oslo

Maya drives first, as Norwegians and Finns travel on the same side of the road and traffic around Oslo is crowded. Before long, I was engulfed in such a stunning sight that it was hard to look at the road. The semi-frozen lakes sparkle in the spring sunshine and the shade is covered by dense pine forests; Polestar hums quietly without disturbing the peace.

The car can accelerate from 0-100 km / h in just five seconds, and we tested it when we overtaken the tractor a little. It is easy to sail at a speed of 90 km / h without noticing – until we remember that the traffic fine in Norway can be more than 700 euros. This is before the points.

Plugged in at Polestar HQ in Gothenburg

Our first stop at Hallingby, a group of modern homes built along the main road. It has a Kiwi supermarket and a charging station with two empty charging points. There is no car in sight, just a few people on their balconies enjoying the sun.

We check out and connect, click on the key fob on the screen, which deducts the payment from our account, and choose the appropriate type of plug (CCS). We drive along the regular gas station for a coffee while charging and half an hour later the battery is at 90 percent.

Polar in the wild: On the road in Norway

Our final destination for the day is Lerhol Farm outside of Vang. Our host Knut Lerhol gave us the directions: ‘Take the E16 for 3.5 hours. Right on the bridge with yellow railing, pass a sign for Riddarstøga Museum, big stone and huge waterfall, as you drive to our farm. Good luck!’

We passed several wrong stones and wrong waterfalls, but luckily the Polestar is neat on three-point turns on mountain turns, even with the summer tires. We stopped at the farm next to a tractor, and Lerhol’s Kvikk dog was skipping and peeing on 20-inch aluminum wheels. The Lerhol family has owned 50,000 acres in Vang since 1647, over 16 generations. They also own the Riddarstøga Museum, which houses 15 old jars and items from a Norwegian mountain farm from the past 100 years.

Cabin in Vang (Photo by Maja Astikainen)

The museum is open by appointment, but that’s not why we’re here. Lerhol rented a summerhouse and sauna called Eldmølla, which he built with the help of architecture students from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology — structures that will eventually appear in Maya’s book as I write about modern sauna culture.

We need to go 3 km on a snowy path to reach them, the best way is on foot, the way Lerhol’s ancestors always did, they only herded cows. When we get there, we steam in the sauna, jump into the waterfall below to cool off and have a picnic in the cabin where the Laerhull family spends all July and August. “The goal when I run the farm is to live off tourism and produce milk,” he explains, eating a cheeseburger made with bread baked by sauna assistant Hallgrim Rogen.

Interior in Fang (Photo by Maja Astikainen)

Before we head back to Oslo, we charge near Vang at the (empty) Tesla Supercharger station. Fang has a population of about 2,000 and at least four electric charging stations, all built within the past five years. “Only about 30 percent of people in Fang own an electric car,” says Laerhull. It’s a slow take on due to the climate and terrain. Most of the time you need a 4WD vehicle.

The Polestar 2 definitely fits our needs. Our trip cost 290 NOK (£24) both ways and would have been a lot less if we could charge at home.

Ildmola sauna in Vang (Photo courtesy of Knut Lierhol)

What you initially saw as the future is quickly becoming an everyday reality. Norway has decreed that sales of all new cars and trucks will be zero-emissions by 2025. Polestar is one of the manufacturers that will make this possible. The company is committed to creating Project 0, a completely climate-neutral electric vehicle, by 2030, a goal that will mean restarting production from China, removing all greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain and ending its lifespan.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated Polestar 3 and 4 will be electric SUVs — a good option for Vang residents, perhaps — with the Polestar 5, due for release in 2024, based on the elegant Polestar Precept concept.

Ildmola sauna in Vang (Photo courtesy of Knut Lierhol)

Norway’s aluminum and renewable energy company Hydro will help keep emissions low, which uses electricity powered by waterfalls, just like the ones we swam – Hydro’s collaboration with Polestar, e-bike maker Cake, and designer Konstantin Grcic launched by Wallpaper* in 2020.

Zero emissions are one thing, but climate neutrality is a loftier goal and a much more difficult path. It looks like Polestar is about to light the way. §

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