Christina Bu: Engineering Norway's EV Success
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Michael: Christina, it’s great talking to you, let us start with our entry question: where do you live?
Christina: Hi Michael, I love to have a chat. Actually, I live in an apartment in Oslo.

Michael: What made you join the EV movement?
Christina: Pretty early on in 2007 my first job started with the Norwegian Automobile Federation. They wanted to hire a political advisor who was going to be responsible for environmental issues. I finally worked there for almost seven years. In this time, I also came in contact with the first electric vehicles and drove my first electric car in 2007. It’s actually the same year I ran out of electricity with a car for the very first time, something that has happened many times to me since then (smiling).

After a few years I started collaborating with the Norwegian EV Association (Norsk elbilforening). At that point they had 3 people working there, but these guys knew all the technical stuff. In 2011 or 2012 or so, we  started talking to car importers, arguing they can’t only talk about maximum range but also communicate what the minimum range of an electric vehicle is. We collaborated in such a practical way in order to have this information on our webpage, instead of saying “this is maximum range of an electric car”, we said: “the range of this e-car is from here to there.” Very pragmatic in these days.

© Christina Bu

Michael: Working for automotive associations in Norway means, that you always were a real car buff?
Christina: (she laughs) No, actually the contrary is true. I got interested in technology and interested in cars only over time. Before I had never been interested in cars. I didn’t start at the Association because I loved cars, but I started because of politics and environmental issues. Then after seven years I applied for the job as secretary general in 2014 for the EV Association. At that time there were 4 people working there, number 5 was hired just before me, so I started as number 6 in the organization.

I remember very well when I went to the interview: crappy offices, right in the center of Oslo, these geeky guys, paper, it was very messy there, but they were cool. Just to explain again: at the Norwegian Automobile Federation there were about 500,000 members, everything was in place. But after my interview I believed in the new world, I said to myself “this is the future” and so I made that shift. I didn’t have any experience in being a manager, but I wanted to go in that direction and the EV Association wanted someone who knew the lobbying part, so that was my way in.

Michael: So, you have been with the EV Association for almost seven years now.
Christina: Yes indeed, I started on the 1st of June 2014, almost 7 years ago, and we’ve grown from less than 10,000 members to above 85,000 members and we will very soon be 40 employees. It’s been a lot of work, not just being the main spokesperson in media but also building the organization and culture.

The main thing in my eyes is getting the right people in. I always say “my best asset is, that I’m good at hiring people.” Sometimes I think I must have some EV God looking down on me because sometimes I feel like I’ve been so lucky with the choices that I’ve made or how things have developed, because it could have gone in a completely different direction.

Michael: Apart from joining the EV Association, when did it really make click with you and when were you convinced the EVs would become a success?
Christina: That was the first time I drove a Nissan LEAF through London. This was my moment! It must have been in 2010. That’s when I understood that this is happening. Everyone always said no, no, it’s never going to take off and driving through London I realized: this is happening, this will work, just give it some time, this is going to happen!

A lot of journalists were invited to London and I was one of them. I think Nissan should get a lot of praise for what they did. If you look at the total electric car fleet in Norway today, the Nissan LEAF is the most sold car. They’ve just celebrated 60,000 LEAFs in Norway, which means we have almost 2% of all passenger cars in Norway as a Nissan LEAF. In total we have about 2.8 million passenger cars. Everybody always talks about Tesla and obviously there are a few Teslas here as well, but the car model that is most common is the Nissan.

That’s it for the first part of our interview with Christina from Oslo, focusing on her career and how she engineered Norway’s EV success. From employee number six to 85,000 members in the Norwegian EV Association within a few years, Christina’s story is truly inspiring. On the second part of the interview, we had the chance to find out about her personal experiences with electric vehicles, how Christina’s family see her mission and, what she did after running out of power with an EV. Stay tuned and read the 2nd part of our interview with Christina Bu tomorrow, here on MOTION.

(Click here for Part 2 of our chat with Christina Bu)