Could Norway's EV Adoption Signal Our Own Electric Future?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Perhaps — but Norway treats EV owners like royalty.

Battery electric vehicles are not subject to most of that country’s automotive taxes, are subsidized via credits, and are frequently offered free parking and charging points as a way to further encourage drivers to get away from gasoline and diesel. Norway is also working aggressively toward banning all gas-powered vehicles by 2025.

According to Reuters, the strategy is working. The independent Norwegian Road Federation (NRF) said Wednesday that electric cars rose to 31.2 percent of all sales last year. EVs represented 20.8 percent of the country’s overall sales in 2017 and just 5.5 percent in 2013.

From Reuters:

“It was a small step closer to the 2025 goal,” by which time Norway’s parliament wants all new cars to be emissions-free, Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen, head of the NRF, told a conference.

Still, he cautioned that there was a long way to go since two-thirds of almost 148,000 cars sold in 2018 in Norway were powered by fossil fuel or were hybrids, which have both battery power and an internal combustion engine.

Helping to make this possible is general consensus among Norwegian politicians that sustainable, green energy is the way forward. Only a small faction of right-wing party members seem opposed to the decision during its 2016 announcement, citing the country’s current role as one of Western Europe’s biggest oil producers.

However, they were overshadowed by environmental activists and EV supporters like Elon Musk — who praised Norway’s decision to ban internal combustion vehicles. “Just heard that Norway will ban new sales of fuel cars in 2025,” Musk tweeted in June of 2016. “What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!!”

Two years later, nearly a third of all Norwegian new car sales are models incorporating a charging port (either PHEV or BEV). By contrast, similar electric cars only enjoy a 2.2 percent share in China in 2017 and just 1.2 percent take in the United States, according to the International Energy Agency.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Erik Andresen, head of Norway’s car importers’ federation, claims the sudden adoption of electric cars has negatively impacted Norway’s tax revenues, raising questions about future reforms to raise cash from the country’s 5.3 million citizens. The market has also not performed well, overall. New car sales in Norway fell 6.8 percent in 2018, with only pluggable vehicles gaining any ground.

This has led some to argue whether or not Norway’s plan to abolish internal combustion vehicles is even feasible.

The Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association (NEVA), a lobby group hoping to prop up electric adoption, thinks a 100 percent market share is still possible. “We know that charging access is a real barrier … and there’s also a risk that not enough cars become available,” NEVA head Christina Bu said, before adding that some EV customers might have to endure year-long wait times as their vehicles are prepared.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Transport Economics’ (ITE) own research looks less promising. “Strictly speaking I don’t think it’s possible, primarily because too many people don’t have a private parking space and won’t want to buy a plug-in car if they can’t establish a charging point at home,” ITE economist Lasse Fridstroem said. “We may be able to get to a 75 percent [market share], provided that the tax breaks are maintained.”

While this would still require another five years of staggering electric adoption, it doesn’t seem impossible based on the progress Norway has already made. But it doesn’t appear to reflect the trend of the wider world either, which has been far more cautious in embracing electric cars.

[Image: Volkswagen Group]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Roader Roader on Jan 06, 2019

    Norway, like the rest of the Norden, is white. Really, really white. Over 90% white. The US, in comparison, is close to 60% non-hispanic white. Norway's racial demographics are similar to Vermont's or New Hampshire's. Easy to get along, easy to agree to share stuff, when everyone looks, talks, and pretty much thinks exactly the same. Much more difficult to do in the racially and ethnically diverse United States. Freidman's quote: A Scandinavian economist once said to Milton Friedman, ‘In Scandinavia, we have no poverty’. Milton Friedman replied, ‘That’s interesting, because in America, among Scandinavians, we have no poverty, either’.

    • Jatz Jatz on Jan 06, 2019

      "Norway, like the rest of the Norden, is white. Really, really white. Over 90% white." What an intolerable situation! But help is on the way.

  • Jatz Jatz on Jan 07, 2019

    What has TTAC learned over this past weekend? MOAR EV NEWS ABOUT PINK PANTS COUNTRIES!

  • Theflyersfan I guess I should have kept my first ever car which was also a 1987 Nissan. Probably could have sold it for $50,000 by now if I was living in this fantasy world where used up 37 year old Nissans sell for the same price as a new Versa. I wish a link was here so all of us can check out this treasure among junk 200SX. The only way this car is even remotely worth that kind of money is if there are illicit substances hidden somewhere in the frame that, as part of the sale, you have to drive across the border and "make a delivery." Otherwise, get that thing off of my lawn.
  • Sobro Needs moar Roots.
  • RHD Questions? None, no, not really. Interested in some random Hyundai? No, not at all. Yawn.
  • Formula m Alfa-Romeo had the great idea to unveil my all time favourite car at the world expo in Montreal. Never built or Sold in North America. The called it the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Never even sold in North America.