Norway is the world’s leader in the adoption of battery-powered electric vehicles (EV).
In 2019, 42.4 percent of all new cars sold in the country were EVs. Earlier this month, the city of Oslo reached a major milestone. Norway’s capital now has 50 000 EVs. And according to news reports, almost half of all new passenger cars sold in the country in the first half of 2020 were EVs, a global record for EV market share.
By contrast, the demand for petrol and diesel cars is fast plummeting. What explains this phenomenal rise in the popularity of EVs?
There has been growing consumer awareness on climate disruption and corresponding interest in pursuing more sustainable lifestyles. When families make important decisions such as buying a car, they want to ensure that such decisions are environment-friendly.
EVs promise zero emission of harmful gases, hence drastically reducing air pollution in urban areas. Unlike many others, however, Norway’s energy supply is derived from clean and renewal sources, mainly hydropower, hence making an even stronger case for making the transition to EVs.
While some of the initial consumer interest was driven by status-seeking motives, the demand for EVs is now well-entrenched, at least in the major metropolitan areas of the country.
In addition to individual motives and preferences, successive governments have over the years, and with widespread political support, compiled a comprehensive EV policy package with the goal of promoting zero-emission vehicles in the market.
The incentives for EVs have been gradually introduced since the 1990s to stimulate the transition from fossil-fuel to battery power and include the following: no purchase taxes (1990), low annual road tax (1996), exemption from road toll (1997), free municipal parking (1999), 50 percent reduced company car tax (2000), exemption from 25 percent value added tax (VAT) on purchase/leasing (2001), access to bus lanes (2003), and free access on state ferries (2009).
The Parliament has also set an ambitious goal that all new cars sold in 2025 should be zero-emission (electric or hydrogen).
Replicating the Norwegian model of extensive economic incentives and battery charging infrastructure on roads may be difficult for many countries. Moreover, electricity is not only in short supply in many parts of the world, but also often derived from fossil-fuels.
In countries like Norway, however, the future certainly appears to be electric even though there are some concerns that the EV boom is denting the country’s tax revenues.
I recently test-drove some of the best EVs currently available, including the Audi e-tron, the Tesla Model X and the Mercedes EQC. Highly impressed with the technology and comfort offered by all three vehicles that can run for around 400 kilometres on a single charge, I am seriously considering ditching my old diesel-powered station wagon.