The Norwegian soldiers guarding the border to Russia is the world’s first military unit to use electric all terrain bikes.
Most part of the 196-kilometer-long Norwegian-Russian border goes through rough terrain along the river banks of Pasvik and Grense Jakobselv and across remote mountains far away from normal roads.
Since Norway became a Schengen Area member some 15 years ago, the Garrison of Sør-Varanger (GSV) has patrolled the border with Six-wheel terrain vehicles during summer and snowmobiles in winter.
A challenge, though, is the size and weight, not least to talk about the predictability a noisy six-wheeler causes if searching for an illegal border-crosser in the wilderness.
Electric bikes fast and silent
Now, the green-uniformed soldiers are testing electric bikes, as the first military unit to do so anywhere. Not only because of the greenish eco-friendly image, but for checking out both possible practical and tactical benefits.
“We are testing the bicycles’ technical characteristics and how they fit to our border guards concept”, says Lieutenant Colonel Jørn Qviller, commander of the Garrison.
“We have long distances to patrol. Such means of transport can cover large areas and move quickly”, he tells the Barents Observer. The electric all-terrain bikes are now for testing and although experiences are positive so far, Qviller doubts they will substitute all other means of transport for the border guards. “This will not be a vehicle we could use for the entire border guard job.”
The Lieutenant-Colonel continues: “We believe the operational benefits are significant, but just as one of many tools we should have in the future.”
“They make substantially less noise and our experiences are that both people and animals get very surprised when we suddenly approach them in the border areas”, Jørn Qviller tells.
The electric bikes have powerful batteries, that last for a while, depending on terrain and temperatures. For the border guards, special training is needed and good maintenance of the bikes are required.
Good for uneven, northern terrain
The bikes run smoothly over rough and uneven terrain. Also, and unlike the six-wheel ATVs, the bikes leave few trails and don’t tear up the fragile northern taiga nature.
Norway’s border to Russia is the northernmost external land border of the Schengen area.
Very few migrants have managed to make it into Europe by crossing this terrain. Though, the latest year has seen a significant increase in illegal attempts by migrants, but all have been arrested by Russian border guards before reaching the border itself.
Related stories from around the North:
Canada: Arctic Canadian town learns lessons from Alaskan wind farm, CBC News
Finland: Finland’s first electric plane raises hopes for future of aviation, Yle News
Norway: Electric planes could arrive sooner than we think in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: Arctic electric rally hits the road towards Northwestern Russia, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: Driverless buses hit the streets in Stockholm, Radio Sweden
United-States: Alaska’s first, electric public transit bus ready to hit Anchorage streets, Alaska Public Media