In 2010 the number of people living without electricity was estimated to be about 1.2 billion. By 2019, this had been reduced to about 760 million. The most significant contribution to this reduction, was the installation of small solar systems, powering at village or household scale. According to the World Bank, about 420 million people currently get their electricity from off-grid solar systems. They estimate that by 2030, that number could increase to 800 million.

Unfortunately, such a metric hides more than it reveals. Having an electrical connection or even a solar panel does not necessarily imply access to electricity. On average, the sun is only available as an energy source about 12 hours a day. Energy access must also take into account reliability and affordability, and is most appropriately measured on a tiered spectrum, from Tier 0 (no access) to Tier 5 (the highest level of access).

Many people in emerging markets (and elsewhere) do not have enough money to pay for products in advance. Pay As You Go (PAYGo) models allow these users to pay for their products over time using technology enabled, embedded consumer financing. A PAYGo company typically offers a solar product, such as a solar home systems and multi-light pico devices. The customer makes a down payment, followed by regular payments for a term ranging from six months to eight years. Payments are usually made via mobile money, though alternative methods are sometimes available.

Productive use leveraging solar energy (PULSE) is defined as any agricultural/ commercial/ industrial activity that uses solar energy as a direct input to the production of goods/ services. PULSE enables/ enhances income generation by households/ farms/ microenterprises, often by mechanizing activities that would otherwise be performed manually or by providing additional hours of lighting in which to work. These activities and lighting might also replace non-renewable sources of energy, such as diesel generators or kerosene.

An especially important area for PULSE is for cold storage, refrigeration, and agricultural processing. This means there is a need for a large number of off-grid refrigerators, as well as products for solar milling. The World Bank, in its report, notes the need for specialized products for use in specific value chains such as poultry, dairy, and coffee. The PULSE segment is in its infancy, but has a potential for rapid expansion.

Key trends in emerging markets from 2020 onwards include: 1) Hardware manufacturing and design. Manufacturers are improving product quality, and developing brands for emerging markets; they are providing lower-cost products at consistently higher quality levels. 2) Software development. Software offers customizable and open architectures, that encourages PAYGo models and platforms. 3) Marketing and distribution. While large international companies are leveraging data to optimize sales and distribution, hardware companies are partnering with local distributors to reach previously underserved markets. 4) Consumer financing. PAYGo is encouraging innovation for payment systems. Companies are partnering directly with financial institutions to decouple consumer finance from their business models. 5) After-sales support. Remote monitoring is enabling companies to improve customer service and asset management. They are incorporating e-waste disposal considerations into business models.

The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in nearly 70 countries and international organizations. Participants involve about 65% of the world’s population. Many of the countries participating are in emerging markets. Here, and elsewhere, Chinese manufacturers will sell higher-quality, self-branded products through local distribution partners and increasingly through their own distribution networks, including on PAYGo. This will increase the amount of high-quality, but lower-cost, products reaching these markets.

What should families in the developing world/ emerging markets do to obtain reliable supply of electrical energy? In many places, utilities (public and/ or private) are unreliable, while new solar panels are too expensive. From about 2010 to 2020, the obvious solution was to buy used solar panels. These panels become available because, in the more developed world, there is economic pressure to make optimal use of roofs and other surfaces, to produce as much power per surface area. This meant the regular replacement and subsequent sale of sub-optimal solar panels. Energy Bin has about 5 million pieces of photovoltaic equipment available on their site, and there are estimates that about 10 million used solar panels are available at any given time, on the global market.

The main source of information about this topic is: Off Grid Solar: Market Trends Report 2020.


Cover is a word play, referring to a non-original musical performance/ recording. However, in this case it also refers to a book’s skin, cardboard holding the contents inside, as it were. The content of this book of English Folk Songs, refers to 151 songs with tune and text, that “are learnt and performed by non-professionals in informal, non-commercial settings.”

In a musical context, a cover is a version of a song that is a remake, a new performance/ recording by someone other than the original composer/ performer. This is a concept that has only existed since the mid-20th century. Before that, musical entertainment was a live event, at home, or some public venue. It is often noted that sheet music was originally published to increase the popularity of music.

The American Copyright Act of 1909, and its subsequent revisions, gave United States musicians the right to record a version of someone else’s previously recorded and released music, whether it is music alone or music with lyrics. While a license can be negotiated between representatives of the interpreting musician and the copyright holder, any cover version can use a mechanical license where the recording musician pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through a designated copyright organization. This is permissible under copyright law even without permission from the original author. This provision was introduced to prevent the Aeolian Company from monopolizing the piano roll market. Many other jurisdictions offer similar provisions.

That said, there are many different reasons why people in the twenty-first century make covers. These reasons are the topic of this weblog post.

One important reason is for a musician to demonstrate technical competence. The cover version in some way attempts to exhibit a technical competence on par with the original. This does not mean that the cover musician is equal to the original musician, especially if the originator composed the music, and/ or wrote the lyrics. There are many different tribute musicians who specialize in making cover versions of prominent bands.

Yet, sometimes the musical expression can compensate. All Along the Watchtower (1967) was originally written and recorded by Bob Dylan (1941 – ). Yet the original version (1967) proved less popular than the Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970) Experience cover version (1968). Part of the reason is simply that Hendrix is a better musician than Dylan, although Dylan is a master at using the English language.

Sometimes, there will be less emphasis on imitation, and more on originality by changing the instrumentation, arrangement or vocal range. Pentatonix began with Kirstie Maldonado (1992 – ), Mitch Grassi (1992 – ) and Scott Hoying (1991 – ) from Arlington, Texas, entering a local competition with an a cappella 2010 cover version of Lady Gaga’s (1986 – ) provocative, original Telephone (audio 2009/ video 2010) with Beyoncé (1981 – ). The cover is not very professionally made, but still demonstrates their talent.

Some cover versions are uniquely different. Many people are aware of Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991), performed by Nirvana, with lyrics and music by Kurt Cobain (1967 – 1994). Its music video was, at a time when people watched something called television, the most played on MTV Europe. For those unfamiliar with the nuances of the original, Wikipedia has an article about it. A cover version by Tori Amos (1963 – ) is recorded at a live performance at Montreux in 1992. It is a totally different experience. There is no attempt to imitate. It provides totally different emotional content. For some, the Tori Amos version is exceptional, and far better than the original.

Fear of the Dark (2019), by the Melodicka Bros, is vastly different, more melodic cover that exceeds the quality of the original, by Iron Maiden (1992), in my opinion. On YouTube, there are over 200 cover versions of this one song available.

Pauli Poisuo on 2020-05-27 documented another cover that is emotionally distinct from the original: Johnny Cash’s (1932 – 2003) cover version of Hurt (2002), was made when Cash knew that he was dying. The take is very different from the original version by Nine Inch Nails = Trent Reznor (1965 – ) who wrote it from the perspective of a young drug addict in a Downward Spiral (the name of the album in which it appeared, released in 1994). The reason for Cash recording Hurt, is probably due to the encouragement of record producer Rick Ruben (1963 – ), who in 1993 convinced Cash to change record labels. He allegedly succeeded by saying, “Well, I don’t know that we will sell records. I would like you to sit in my living room with a guitar and two microphones and just sing to your heart’s content, everything you ever wanted to record.” This artistic freedom offered was extremely important for Cash.

Another reason for making a cover is parody. Sometimes people believe a band/ musician is too pretentious about their works, with the result that they attempt to parody them back to reality. Kraftwerk is a synthesizer-based electronic music band from Düsseldorf, Germany, started in 1970 by Ralf Hütter (1946 – ) and Florian Schneider-Eselben (1947 – 2020). The Official Kraftwerk YouTube Channel has about 61 400 subscribers, they only offer three videos, including Die Roboter/ The Robots, released in 1978.

Enter American pianist, synthesist, electronic musician, producer, father Andrew and his son Hudson. Last name, Piano (on YouTube) but Voltage (and currently missing from Instagram). Their YouTube site boasts 440 subscribers, and 5 videos. As of 2021-09-16, 178 678 people had watched their cover of The Robots, uploaded in 2016. Andrew writes: “For this project, my intent was to spend some creative fun time with my 6 year old son, teaching him about music production and synthesizers. I also wanted to introduce him to Kraftwerk—heroes of mine since childhood. We had a lot of fun making this and hope you enjoy…The Robots!”

An aside: Wolfgang Flür (1947 – ) was a percussionist with Kraftwork from 1973 to 1987. He wrote a critical book about the band, I was a Robot (2003) in which he claims that he invented the electric drums used by the band throughout the 1970s. However, patent records dispute this.

There have been several popular versions of The House of the Rising Sun published. In Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, and other English speaking countries, the Newcastle, England group, The Animals version from 1964 is most popular. In other countries, including Norway, the Detroit, Michigan band Frijid Pink‘s version, released in 1969, is more popular. While these arrangements are copyrightable, the original music/ lyrics are not, since the original songwriter is unknown. The oldest published version of the lyrics was printed by Robert Winslow Gordon in 1925, in a column “Old Songs That Men Have Sung” in Adventure magazine. The oldest known recording of the song dates from 1933 by Clarence “Tom” Ashley, who claimed he learned it from his grandfather. Dave Marsh in, The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, (1989), described the song (in entry #91), as the first folk rock hit.

The New Penguin Book of English Folk Songs provides the tune and text of 151 songs, that “are learnt and performed by non-professionals in informal, non-commercial settings.” (xii) This, and other collections of folk songs, can provide a basis for music and lyric adaptations. What one person finds of interest will not necessarily appeal to others. There is a lot of room for personal taste. This writer is reading the book at the rate of one song per day. This means not just reading the lyrics, but also the accompanying notes. It also means listening to song versions that are available.

This weblog post will end will the presentation of a group that will remain anonymous, for what is called the worst ever cover, a version of The Final Countdown, originally recorded by the Swedish rock band Europe, in 1986.


I have tried to approach Toyota neutrally, as a vehicle brand, over the past fifty years, but it has gradually sunk in my esteem. Today, it is probably the vehicle brand that I regard most negatively. Toyota’s major concern is that a rapid shift from ICE vehicles to EVs could erode its market share and reduce or eliminate profits.

Earlier, in our car purchasing careers, Patricia and I would attempt to evaluate Toyotas. However, they were not designed for our collective anatomies. If Patricia felt comfortable driving a model, it was uncomfortable for me, and vice versa.

Indeed, with the latest incident with their e-Palette pod at the Paralympics in Tokyo, Toyota is now permanently removed from my list of vehicle brands to consider purchasing.

The Last Straw

Toyota suspended use of the e-Palette transportation pods at the Tokyo Paralympic Games village, a day after one of the vehicles collided with and injured a pedestrian on 2021-08-26. After a couple of days the vehicles were taken into use again. The incident happened when a pod was manually controlled by one of its two on-board operators using the vehicle’s joystick. It pulled away from a T-junction and drove through a pedestrian crossing while Aramitsu Kitazono (1991 – ), a visually impaired athlete, was walking across. The vehicle operators were aware that a person was there but thought the person would realize that a bus was coming and stop crossing the street.

This situation involves a vehicle capable of autonomous operation, but being operated in manual mode. Thus, the statement made by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda (1956 – ) is disingenuous, when he states that the crash shows autonomous vehicles are not yet realistic for normal roads. Indeed, all it shows is that human vehicle operation still results in accidents. Admittedly, there is a need to scrutinize the various levels of autonomous driving systems, including their safety and real-world capabilities. Such an incident is inconsistent with what is expected from a self-driving vehicle. A car cannot expect anything from a human being. It is the vehicle that must exercise caution.

This statement by Toyoda is the proverbial last straw. Toyota has opposed a fast transition to electric vehicles (EVs), something that appears critical to mitigate climate change. In 2021-06, several media sources reported that Chris Reynolds (1963 – ), an American Toyota executive with responsibility for government relations, travelled to Washington DC for closed-door meetings with congressional staff members. Here, he allegedly stated Toyota’s opposition to an aggressive transition to all-electric cars, arguing that internal combustion engine (ICE) – electric hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles should be accorded a bigger role.

Toyota has opposed stricter vehicle emission standards and electric vehicle mandates in North America, the European Union and elsewhere, including India, where Toyota’s Indian subsidiary publicly criticised India’s 100% electric vehicle sale target by 2030.

Toyota, and other legacy auto-makers, agreed with the Trump administration in a confrontation with California over the Clean Air Act. Toyota also sued Mexico over fuel-efficiency rules. In Japan, it argued against carbon taxes. Toyota concentrated on the wrong technology. Hydrogen fuel cells offer a costlier and, increasingly, a less developed technology in relation to battery EVs.

The Colours of Hydrogen

Hydrogen may be a colourless gas, but it is available in a variety of colours, based on how it is manufactured. Some methods are environmentally suitable, many are not, and there is no easy way to distinguish what is in any particular vehicle’s tank. This is a major problem for Toyota, when they attempt to promote hydrogen as an environmentally friendly product.

Black or brown hydrogen, uses black (bituminous) or brown (lignite) coal in the hydrogen-making process. Grey hydrogen is the most common form and is generated from natural gas/ methane, through steam reforming. With blue hydrogen, the carbon generated from steam reforming is captured and stored underground through industrial carbon capture and storage (CCS). It is, therefore, sometimes referred to as carbon neutral as the emissions are not dispersed in the atmosphere. However, it is probably more correct to regard it as low carbon because 10-20% of the generated carbon cannot be captured. In addition, storing the carbon can be problematic.

Green hydrogen is produced using clean energy from surplus renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, through electrolysis. Yellow hydrogen has two divergent meanings. It can refer to hydrogen electrolysis using solar power, or it can refer to electrolysis using mixed sources, including non-renewables, depending on what is available. Personally, I am attempting to refer to the latter as orange (up to 50% non-renewables) and red, when the non-renewables exceed this value. Pink hydrogen uses electrolysis powered by nuclear energy. Turquoise hydrogen may be more climate friendly than blue hydrogen, but it still relies on a fossil fuel, methane. It is currently an experimental process that uses methane pyrolysis to generates solid carbon. There is no need for CCS, and the carbon can be used in other processes, including tire manufacturing. I dislike the term turquoise being used in this way, because it greenwashes methane. Personally, I would like to refer to this as purple hydrogen.


Ferdinand Porsche (1875 – 1951) developed the Lohner-Porsche hybrid vehicle in 1901. It was the first hybrid. Yet, it is Toyota that is known for its hybrids. Hybrid electric vehicles become widely available with the release of the Toyota Prius in 1997. Since then, Toyota has stagnated. Despite the first plug-in hybrid car being built by Andrew Alfonso Frank (ca. 1934 – ), and his students, in 1971, the first mass produced plug-in hybrid passenger car was the Chinese BYD F3DM, launched in 2008. Before this, there were some experimental vehicles, including some Prius models, that were after-market plug-in hybrid conversions, but this was more despite Toyota, than because of Toyota. These added plug-in charging and additional lead-acid batteries, to extend range. It is not Toyota, but Mitsubishi, with its Outlander PHEV that is the world’s all-time best-selling plug-in hybrid. Hybrid vehicles require a duplication of technology, and do not offer any guaranteed reduction in fossil fuel consumption.


On 2020-12-07, Toyota announced plans to bring two EVs and a hybrid to the European market. On 2021-02-10, they repeated this for the US market. One of the EVs is the bZ4X SUV (and its badge engineered Subaru Solterra AWD). The others are more difficult to guess, but some sources think the plug-in could be a Toyota RAV4/ Subaru Forester. These EVs will not be built by Toyota, but by BYD, the Chinese EV manufacturer. Admittedly, plug-in hybrids can be efficient in some use cases, but it is an exaggeration, if not an outright untruth, to state, as Toyota did, that: “GHG [greenhouse gas contribution] of a currently available BEV model and PHEV model are roughly the same in on-road performance when factoring in pollutants created by electricity production for the average U.S. energy grid used to charge batteries.”

Toyota announced on 2021-09-08, that it is investing ¥ 1.5 trillion = ca. US$ 13.6 billion = ca. € 11.5 billion, in EV batteries as it is trying to catch up after falling behind in electrification. Masahiko Maeda (1969 – ), Toyota’s chief technology office, said that Toyota wants to secure 200 GWh of batteries by 2030. With an average battery pack of 60 kWh, this would be enough to produce more than 3 million EVs per year.

Toyota seems to be trying to game climate change, rather than taking it seriously. They are playing both sides: offering climate scepticism to climate sceptics and climate concern to environmentalists, when it suits them. My personal conclusion is that this approach makes Toyota one of the least ethical auto-makers in the world. It is attempting to undermine agreed upon climate goals, which may in themselves be too little, too late. Consumers with the possibility, should only be considering EVs for their next vehicle purchase. One approach is to retain a current ICE vehicle, until EV prices decline sufficiently to allow a purchase. Regardless, consumers should avoid buying Toyotas, until the company starts talking realistically about environmental concerns including human induced climate change, and shows real environmental progress by eliminating ICE (including hybrid) vehicles from their model program.

If not a Toyota, what?

In the coming months and years, a number of new, lower cost mass market EVs will be emerging, that are more reliable, economical and environmentally friendly than current vehicles. These will not be technological experiments on wheels, but functional mass-market products. The handling of fires in Chevrolet Bolts and Hyundai Konas, shows that manufacturing and selling EVs is not a game, but an endeavour with potentially serious and expensive consequences. While General Motors used delay tactics and let consumers deal with emerging safety issues, Hyundai replaced defective batteries almost immediately, despite the enormous cost. Now, General motors is also having to replace batteries at the same enormous cost, but has lost the respect and confidence of consumers. My expectation is that few consumers will want to prioritize buying a Bolt (or any other Chevrolet EV) in the future.

While there are several theories about innovation, one of the first and most influential was Everett Rogers’ (1931 – 2004) famous Diffusion of Innovations (1961) book, containing a model and curve (see below). Geoffry Moore (1946 – ) in Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (1991) regarded the step from early adapters to early majority as a chasm. Crossing it is difficult, yet critical for success. To understand why I am pessimistic about the fate of legacy auto-makers, one has only to read Clayton Christensen (1952 – 2020), The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997). He is not optimistic about the chances of any legacy manufacturer of anything surviving, in a disrupted market.

The Diffusion of Innovation Curve (Rogers, 1962 ...

For the past ten years, EV models have been released that have suited initiators, innovators and early adopters, with an emphasis on sportiness and luxury. These values are wasted on the majority, who want pragmatic solutions to their transportation needs. In Norway, the early majority are already in the marketplace. By 2025, the late majority will have started buying EVs. Laggards will be making EV purchases by 2030, if not 2027.

Today, I read in passing that there are 138 EV models available. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it seems a reasonable approximation. I will make no attempt to influence or micromanage any reader, or to suggest any of these models for anyone. Instead, I will allow readers to see some of my considerations, when I evaluate EVs, and why I need help to make sensible choices. At the most basic level, safety (including positive crash test results) must be in place, and the technology (battery, motor, charging) must be sound.

I am not known for my wise automotive purchases. In part, this is because practicality has to combine with my personal sense of style (some would say, frivolity) to create an attractive vehicle. My first car was a 1962 Hillman Minx convertible, purchased in 1966. It was fun, but unreliable. It lasted six months. Together with Patricia, over our lifetimes, we have owned 2 English, 2 French, 2 German, 2 Japanese and 1 Korean vehicles. In this time I have learned something about vehicles, my own personality, and Patricia’s.

My temperament attracts me to utilitarian French vehicles because of their comfort, ground clearance and load carrying capacity, and despite their notorious lack of reliability. Yet, I manage to see them possessing utilitarian elegance. I have appreciated the Citroën Berlingo since its inception, but I am less enthusiastic about its current and upcoming electric Multispace, its multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) variants. Even the new Renault Kangoo ZE update in the same segment, is not being built as an EV from the ground up. However, I find Renault (and its sub-brand Dacia) along with Fiat, the most interesting European automotive manufacturers, precisely because there is a sense of whimsy in their design. What they lack in quality, they make up in style. Fiat, back in 2018, announced a 500 Giardiniera station wagon. Then in 2019, it presented the Centoventi (120) concept, which they suggested, could become the first Panda EV. Both would be built on an electric only platform. Both hold a design appeal I find lacking in a BMW or Cadillac or a Ford F-150. The main difference between 2019 and now, is that Fiat has become part of Stellantis, headquartered in Amsterdam, but with 30 manufacturing facilities around the world. Most new Fiat products would be built on the Stellantis STLA Small EV platform.

Fortunately, Patricia won’t let me make the most ruinous decisions, and tempers my desire for fashion, form, frivolity and fun. She will undoubtedly tell me that it would be much more sensible to purchase a Hyundai, such as the upcoming Ioniq 3 (compact) or Ioniq 1 (mini) crossover SUV EVs, but that I should wait until 2025, when more mass-market models will be available, at lower prices. Nirvana is less than 40 months away!

Regardless of what happens, it should be noted that I will not be the first in the family to own an EV. My daughter, Shelagh together with her husband, Derek, own a BMW i3.

Shelagh and Derek’s 2017 BMW i3

Note: This post has been modified to include Shelagh and Derek’s change of marital status on 2022-11-22.

Dolores O’Riordan: A tidbit

(1971-09-06 – 2018-01-15)

Dolores O'Riordan 2016 (cropped).jpeg
Dorores O’Riordan 2016-07-09, Weert, Netherlands. Photo: Bart Notermans.

One Track: The Cranberries, Zombie (1994). Video directed by Samuel Bayer.

A Second Track: Bad Wolves, Zombie (2018). O’Riodan was in London to record this version of Zombie with the Bad Wolves, when she died.

One Quotation: “When I was about 14, I got a tacky keyboard for 250 pounds and put on a drum machine and found I could write a song.”

One Comment: On 1993-03-20, in Warrington, Cheshire, England, terrorists had planted bombs in cast iron dustbins/ garbage cans/ trash cans. They phoned the police with a coded warning that there was a bomb, but they didn’t say which town.  When one bomb exploded 25 minutes later, panicked crowds ran directly into the path of the second explosion. Three year old Johnathan Ball died at the scene, while 12-year-old Tim Parry was seriously injured, and died five days later. Fifty-four other people suffered injuries. Zombie was a direct response from O’Riordan and the Cranberries to the horror of Warrington and all the other atrocities that had taken place. It pleads: “Another mother’s breaking / Heart is taking over / When the violence causes silence / We must be mistaken.”

Trøndelag Commuter Rail

The new FLIRT train at Stjørdal Station, 2021-08-31. Photo: Kolbkorr

On 2021-08-31, Adressavisen, Trøndelags largest newspaper, was itself divided. Its translated headline read: “These trains are called both a scandal and an improvement even before they have carried a single passenger[.] Scandal or success? It all depends on who you ask. Here’s what you need to know about the controversial hybrid trains[.]”

This was the day when Norwegian Minister of Transport Knut Arild Hareide (Christian People’s Party) cut the ribbon to welcome the new trains that will serve on the Trøndelag Commuter Rail line, at Trondheim Central Station. With him was Lena Angela Nesteby, the Acting CEO of SJ Norge = SJ Norway, operator of the line.

Notably absent was Trøndelag County mayor Tore O. Sandvik (Labour Party), who was also invited to experience the new hybrid train, but declined. Instead, he comments: “This is the biggest political belly flop in Norwegian railway history”.

He believes that instead of eating cake, explaining away, procrastinating and purchasing trains that few others use, one should have first electrified the entire Trøndelag Commuter Rail line, as the governing parties guaranteed in their election promises in 2017. Then, in 2018, after seven years of planning, when the budget was expected to fund implementation, there was no money for electrification (except a minor amount for yet more unnecessary planning!)

As will be seen under policy, further down in this post, the extent of the Trøndelag Commuter Rail line is not always easy to ascertain. Some regard everything north of Trondheim as part of the Northland Rail line, and everything south as either part of the Dovre Rail line or the Røros Rail line. However, most people in Trøndelag regard the Trøndelag Commuter Rail line, as the regional train line stretching from Steinkjer (north of Inderøy) to Trondheim (22 stops further south), or Lerkendal (the most common end-point, just south of Trondheim city centre, with 3 additional stops). Some would even extend it to Støren (considerably further south of Trondheim, with 8 additional stops after Lerkendal, which is also the maintenance centre for the trains. The rail connection also continues on to Røros, to make a 4.5 hour trip along 290 km of track. Wikipedia has further details about the line.

For the past few years, improvements have been made to the rail infrastructure in Trøndelag. Platforms throughout the line have been extended to a length of 120 m, with a platform height of 76 cm above top of rail (ATR). Notably absent is electrification. This is much more difficult and time consuming to implement. Bridges can make implementation difficult, especially if the bridges are old, and were never expected to be electrified.

The new train sets reflect this lack of electrification. These are Stadler FLIRT ( Flinker Leichter Intercity- und Regional-Triebzug = Fast Light Intercity and Regional Train) made in Switzerland by Stadler Rail. These are bi-mode, hybrid electric multiple unit articulated train sets that will have six cars permanently attached, with a length of 112.7 m. The maximum speed is 200 km/h. Floor height is 78 cm (some sources say 80 cm) suitable for the specified platform heights, which is the new standard platform height in Norway. These are referred to as type 76. On other Norwegian lines, train sets without PowerPack cars have been in use since 2012. These are referred to as Type 74 when used as regional trains with 2 + 2 seating. Local trains with an overweight of cramped 2 + 3 seating are identified as type 75. In total 14 type 76 train sets, each seating 241 passengers with 2 + 2 seating, are in the process of being delivered to Trøndelag Commuter Rail.

The PowerPack car, is an additional one-third length non-passenger car inserted in the train set with diesel engines generating electricity, allowing the train to run “off-wire”. It has a gangway through the centre to allow passengers to pass between the two parts of the train. This is a needless expense. Our family expert on rail transportation said that about 1 billion (or 20%) of the 5.5 billion NOK investment in these 14 train sets, will go to the PowerPack cars, and their control. These will not be needed at all in about four years time. The existing BM92 units could have served an additional four years and/ or the electrification of the line could have started earlier.

The cars are equipped with Jakobs bogies, named after the German railway engineer, Wilhelm Jakobs (1858–1942). It is a bogie that connects two cars. In Norway, the Jakobs bogie is used on other Flirt trains. Another notable user is the French TGVs made by Alstom.

The Jakobs bogie has the following advantages: It stiffens the train set so it is less prone to folding like an accordion during a derailment. At high speeds this is very dangerous. It happened at the Eschede derailment, the worst high-speed train crash ever, on 1998-06-03. Yet, TGV trains have several times derailed at high speed, 290-300 km/h, and still remained standing in the tracks – something the Jakobs bogies have probably contributed to. Therefore, the derailments have not claimed lives or caused serious injuries; The trains are lighter with only one bogie per. wagon instead of two. This is the case even though the increasing load on each bogie means that the cars have to be made somewhat shorter; Trains become cheaper with fewer bogies, as bogies are complicated and expensive; The wheel noise, which makes up a large part of the noise from a train, is reduced with fewer bogies. Inside, the wheel noise is also most noticeable in the transition between the cars, where people do not tend to stay. A disadvantage of Jakobs bogies is that it is usually impossible or, at best, time-consuming to add or remove cars. This must be done in a workshop. One practical approach is to connect two or more train sets.

Type 92
The BM92 trains are being replaced. This shows the typical two-car set stopped at Hommelvik Station in Malvik municipality, on 2008-06-28. Note that access to the train involves four steps. The steps all have variable width. At the front of the train, the width is greater at the front than the back. This makes it extremely difficult to bring anything wheeled, such as a wheelchair or pram, onto the train. Photo: Alasdair McLellan.

NSB Type 92 is a class of 15 diesel multiple units built by the former German train manufacturer Duewag, later to become part of Siemens. The two-car train-sets were delivered in 1984 and 1985, and were refurbished in 2005 and 2006. Each set seats 168 people, is 49.45 meters long and weighs 92 tonnes. The front car is powered with two electric motors, giving a power output of 714 kW and a maximum speed of 140 km/h. The cars are totally unsuited for use by anyone with mobility issues. Access to the train involves four steps. The steps all have variable width and are located at the ends of each car. This means the width is greater towards the end than towards the middle. This makes it extremely difficult to bring anything wheeled onboard, such as a wheelchair or pram. One of the train-sets was destroyed in an accident at Åsta that claimed 19 lives on 2000-01-04, leaving 14 sets.


Norway, Norges Statsbaner (NSB) = Norwegian State Railways was founded in 1883. In 1996, it was split into three separate governmental agencies. The ownership, maintenance and construction of track was transformed to the newly created government agency Norwegian National Rail Administration, while a new Norwegian Railway Inspectorate was created to supervise all railway operations in the country. NSB was renamed NSB BA and created as a limited company, wholly owned by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. This was followed by a number of rebranding efforts. The latest of which was in 2019 when NSB was renamed Vygruppen and rebranded as Vy. The name change was supported by 7% of Norwegians.

Norway decided to set its train routes out to tender, as encouraged by the European Union. Traffic Package 1 covered the south, 2 the north, 3 the west. There should have been a Traffic Package 4 covering the east of Norway. This package was large and comprehensive. After the first three packages showed that Vy was not competitive, this fourth package was cancelled. So much for the virtue of competition.

Details: This paragraph can be skipped by anyone with a life. Traffic Package 1: South. Long distrance trains (including night-trains, Sørlandsbanen: Oslo S – Kristiansand – Stavanger; Jærbanen; Lokal trains in Stavanger – Egersund; Arendalsbanen: Regional trains Arendal – Nelaug. Package 2: North is described further down in more detail. Package 3: West. Bergensbanen has the greatest traffic. A large proportion of traffic is tourist and leisure travel. Flåmsbanen is not covered by traffic package 3. Traffic Package 4: East, that included local trains Spikkestad /Asker – Lillestrøm og Stabekk/Oslo S – Ski; Regional trains: Oslo S – Ski, Stabekk – Moss, Oslo S – Mysen/Rakkestad and Oslo S – Hakadal/Jaren along with the Regional express trains Oslo S – Halden og Oslo S – Gjøvik. Flytoget the airport train from south of Oslo to Oslo Airport, Gardermoen, to the north.

In Sweden. Statens Järnvägar (SJ) = (Swedish) State Railways, existed from 1888. It was disbanded in 2001, with the assets transferred to seven separate companies, the first three owned by the Swedish government and the latter four being privatized. SJ AB is one of these Swedish state-owned companies, and it is the largest train operator in the Nordic region and the only one who operates trains between Scandinavia’s three capitals (Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo).

SJ Norge won the competition to operate trains in the north of Norway, as this map shows. Map: SJ Norge.

SJ Norge AS is owned by SJ AB, and in 2019-06 they were awarded traffic package 2 North, by the Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications, effective 2020-06-08. They are using the brand name SJ Nord = North. The contract period lasts until December 2030. SJ Nord operates seven train routes in Norway based on this package. The longest stretches are the Nordlandsbanen, which runs between Bodø and Trondheim, and the Dovrebanen, which runs between Trondheim and Oslo. The package also includes the Raumabanen, between Dombås and Åndalsnes, and the Rørosbanen, from Røros to Hamar, with connections north to Trondheim and south to Oslo.

Saltenpendelen is a local train connecting Bodø, Fauske and Rognan. Trønderbanen, which is the topic of this weblog post, officially runs between Steinkjer and Melhus via Trondheim. While Meråkerbanen, which SJ refers to as “the neighbour train” connects Trondheim to the Swedish cities of Åre and Östersund, via Storlien. In addition, SJ Nord offers bus travel to cities such as Tromsø, Narvik, Namsos, Ålesund, Kristiansund and Molde.