By Mattias Goldmann, CEO of Green and Liberal Mindset Fores
Ask any foreigner to name a Swedish vehicle, and he or she will immediately mention Volvo. But there are more players on the market, both established and newcomers, from bike-like electric pods to passenger cars and heavy vehicles, all characterized by an impressive focus on climate and sustainability. Let the 2030-secretariat guide you!
Bikes and mopeds
Traditionally, mopeds are used either by 15 to 18-year-olds in rural areas before they obtain their driving license, or by the elderly. A group of Swedish hipster entrepreneurs are challenging this with their electric Vässla, which sounds like Tesla and means weasel. It is stylish, fast, silent and emissions-free. It is mainly sold over the internet, with previous buyers acting as Vässla Heroes. When they offer potential clients to try their Vässla, they get points that can be exchanged for up-and-coming designer clothes. Most of the early customers have never even considered a moped before.
Swedish bike manufacturers have proliferated in recent years, with a return to actually producing at least part of the bikes in Sweden rather than in Asia. With the government’s 25 percent price subsidy on e-bikes, companies specializing in upmarket e-bikes such as Walleräng are particularly interesting.
Over the past decades, passenger vehicles have grown larger and heavier, but on average they still only carry 1.5 persons. This is now being challenged by several newcomers on the market. CleanMotion is a three-wheel electric vehicle, classified as a light motorbike but mainly resembling a tuk-tuk. It has been developed by Hans Folkesson, former head of development at Volvo and Skoda-Volkswagen. It is now seen as a “pod-taxi” in Stockholm and Gothenburg, and local production in India and Indonesia is starting up.
The other Swedish brand that many might know is Saab, which has now become Chinese-owned National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS). Their focus is strictly electric cars, starting with the Saab 9-3 platform but developing new cars focusing on the Chinese shared vehicle market, and investing heavily in automated, self-driving cars.
Through innovative crowd-funding,Uniti has developed a light, small electric vehicle that they are now re-designing to be classified as a car, meaning that they also face much tougher and more costly regulations on safety. While production in Sweden is preferred, alternatives such as Silverstone in England are also being pursued.
Trucks and buses
Scania, though not present in the US, is in fact one of the world’s largest manufacturers of trucks and buses, and has what is probably the widest range of sustainable solutions. It offers vehicles designed for biodiesel, biogas, ethanol and electricity, including e-trucks powered by conductors installed below the road surface.
Einride focuses only on electric self-driving, driverless trucks which enables them to redesign the truck so that more space can be used for cargo.
Inzile is specializing in last mileage cargo, developing modestly priced, small electric trucks that may reach the inner cities where large trucks are inconvenient or simply not allowed.
Despite having spent absolutely zero on marketing, Candela Speed Boats already has 150 orders for their electric, carbon-fibre speedboat with a top speed of 30 knots and a price tag of around 250,000 USD. At the other end of the market, Swedish Crescent reports that their electric small boats for recreational fishing already outsell the conventional ones.
… and batteries
With the Swedish and global emphasis on electromobility, the need for batteries increases rapidly – as well as the sustainability requirements. Northvolt, led by former Tesla executive Peter Carlsson, wants to answer both with a “gigafactory” in northern Sweden, using 100 percent green energy and sourcing raw materials from existing batteries rather than mining.
A bright future
From bikes to trucks, the vehicle market is transforming rapidly. Legislative demands and customer expectations compel us to move away not only from the fossil fuels that we know so well, but also from the inefficiencies of the past – volume and weight, but also the driver him- or herself. In this megashift, Swedish vehicle companies are positioning themselves to be of global relevance and may be waiting for your call, your order or your readiness to invest in a brighter future.
Fores (which includes the 2030-secretariat) is a Swedish think tank devoted to questions related to climate and environment, migration and integration, entrepreneurship and economic reforms, as well as the digital society.