Norway: The Electric Vehicle Paradise
When you hear the words “electric vehicle paradise”, you immediately think of a future where robots are running everything. But that future may be closer than we think, as this small Scandinavian country has shown.
Norway is home to a lot of electric vehicles, and by a lot, we mean, A LOT. To put it into perspective, Norway is home to about 5.5 million people, but it is Tesla’s biggest market on a per capita basis, and the company's fourth biggest market by sales. The streets of Norway are packed with tiny Smarts and VW Up!s and Tesla’s Model 3. The country boasts of an electric vehicle purchase rate of about 58% of all car sales, according to the Norwegian Information Council for Road Traffic (OFV).
These sales figures reflect Norway’s desire to move away from the conventional fuel vehicles, and has propelled the country to the global eye as a front runner for EV revolution. However, the question still remains: how did a small Scandinavian nation become the leader of the electric vehicle revolution?
The answer is simple: environmental factors and financial incentives.
For decades, Norway has been one of the world’s largest exporter of oil and natural gas. However, despite its reputation as a major oil industry player, almost all of Norway’s domestic energy comes from hydropower, making the country much greener than countries that rely solely on heavy pollution coal-based industries.
As far back as 1990, the government began to introduce incentives for EV owners. To make the switch happen, the Norwegian government has invested heavily in financial incentives and charging infrastructure. Incentives included the removal of Norway’s 25% sales tax for new EV purchases in 2001, lower road tax, waived charges for toll roads, and even free parking in municipal car parks.
In terms of infrastructure, the Norwegian government has also subsidized the construction of private and public charging infrastructure. Although the country’s extensive charging infrastructure was kick-started by government money, private companies are now taking over operations, with the support from the government. These nationwide charging networks are adding stations every 50km or less along the country’s main roads, including routes leading to popular seaside destinations as well as the ski resorts.
To capitalize on the fame that they’re getting, Norway is leveraging their EV haven as a means to attract tourism. It seems silly, but with the rise of ecotourism and sustainable travel, more and more people are heading to Norway to immerse themselves in a guilt-free, eco-friendly experience with the unique landscape and culture of Norway. In fact, the Norwegian government even maintains a website dedicated to encouraging EV aficionados to visit. After all, with their hydropower and EVs, here’s nowhere better on the planet to enjoy guilt-free driving.
With these changes, the government met its target of 50,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road three years earlier than planned. Despite this, the current center-right coalition has kept most of the incentives in place to at least 2021.
"For most countries, the first phase of the green shift is the transition from coal to renewables. Thanks to our waterfalls, Norway has already entered the next phase: How can we use our clean energy to electrify other sectors? We need to replace the fossil fuels used in other sectors with clean electricity to mitigate global warming. We need better batteries for ships and trucks so they can travel longer distances." Prime Minister Erna Solberg said, on the importance of electrification and energy storage moving forward.
But can countries like Malaysia emulate this example and change our entire driving ecosystem to match something like Norway’s? According to Christina Bu, the secretary general of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, no, but not because of how EVs are seen around the world, but because the circumstances for each country will be different.
"There are elements to consider, such as bus lane access or free public parking that don’t cost much. Instead of raising taxes, countries like Sweden are about to shift car taxes onto higher polluting vehicles, so the overall tax take remains the same while encouraging more people into EVs," she said.
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