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Electric mobility: the Norwegian model

Nov 27, 2020

They don’t build cars, but they have a vast number of charging stations! Of all the markets, Norway has the highest proportion of e-vehicles. A charging network with total coverage, coupled with state incentives, is making electric mobility a rip-roaring success story. How does Norway do it?

While people everywhere are talking about electric mobility, in Norway now six out of ten new cars are either fully or partly powered by electricity. No other country in Europe has more electric cars per capita than this Scandinavian country with a population of only 5.35 million. The total electric fleet, including plug-in hybrids, comes to 430,000 rechargeable cars, 300,000 of them battery-electric vehicles. E-models have been topping the registration statistics for a long time. And half of all e-cars sold in Norway come from German makers. The Audi e-tron was the bestseller for most of this year, but since September Volkswagen’s ID.3 has been making the running. The former top-contender Tesla has seen its sales collapse by almost 40 percent in comparison with last year, falling to seventh place in the rankings. In international comparison, in 2020 Norway ranks behind China, Germany, the US, France and the UK in sixth place among the important sales markets. The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) reports that over 250,000 electric cars have already been registered in Germany this year. So how has Norway managed to promote electric mobility on such a scale?

E-vehicles easily cope with Norway’s vast distances – Copyright: eMobility Flam
E-vehicles easily cope with Norway’s vast distances – Copyright: eMobility Flam

State incentives drive electric mobility

Let’s get one thing clear: in terms of per capita gross domestic product, Norway is one of the richest nations in the world. The country can afford to set itself ambitious targets. As of 2025, new registrations will be limited to zero-emission cars. Since 1990 politicians have been promoting e-mobility with extensive programs revised at intervals to take account of the market situation. In the land of the Vikings that has resulted in a Volkswagen e-Golf costing less than a conventional VW Golf, even though the electric version is much more expensive to import. The reason: registering a diesel or gasoline car generally incurs extra taxes based on the vehicle’s emissions and weight. VAT then adds 25 percent to the price – but battery-electric cars and plug-in hybrids are exempt from VAT. This means that the taxes on a conventional VW Golf come to nearly 12,000 euros. Owners of e-cars don’t have to pay motor-vehicle tax, and electric company cars also qualify for tax breaks. In addition, e-cars have priority in Norway’s everyday traffic. In towns and cities they may use bus lanes, even during the rush hour. And as you often find in Norway that your wide, well maintained road ends at a small harbor, ferry prices are halved for electric cars. In fact, until 2017 the ferries carried e-cars free of charge. Now drivers of electric vehicles bearing “EL” plates have to pay tolls and no longer enjoy free parking. But the parking fee may not be more than 50 percent of that for a conventional vehicle. The incentives will be revised again at the end of 2021.

Charging station in the middle of nowhere – Copyright: Aiomag.de
Charging station in the middle of nowhere – Copyright: Aiomag.de

A complete charging infrastructure

Another advantage is Norway’s very extensive infrastructure. For example, today there are 10,000 public charging pillars across the country. Nearly all of today’s trunk roads have at least two fast charging points every 50 kilometers. The country has even set up a state-owned company to continually push expansion of the network forward. Rich Norway is in the perfect energy situation, as 99 percent of its electricity is generated from renewable sources, mostly from hydropower. So e-cars run practically carbon-neutral. Yet the boom in demand also has its downside. Car manufacturers cannot keep up. Norwegians have to wait a long time for their electric cars. And sometimes they need a lot of patience at public charging stations, too. So at the beginning of 2019 Oslo decided that because of the high vehicle density, electric cars would no longer be charged up for free on municipal parking lots.

Role-model for Germany?

What can Germany learn from Norway when it comes to taking electric mobility forward? In 2015 Germany passed its Electric Mobility Act (EmoG) granting electric vehicles special rights, e.g. reserved parking spaces for charging, the use of bus lanes, partial exemption from parking fees, and exemption from access restrictions. But ultimately, the decisions on each measure rest with the municipalities. This results in the regulations differing from one place to another. Recently the promotional measures were stepped up. As of 2020, both private and commercial purchasers benefit from attractive subsidies for new electric vehicles. Applications for these subsidies can be filed with the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA). For example, since the summer a subsidy of 9,000 euros has been available for a fully electric vehicle with a net list price of up to 40,000 euros. However, one major drawback in Germany is still the charging infrastructure in both rural and city areas. The number of charging pillars, and their output, are nowhere near sufficient, because e-mobility is growing faster than the availability of renewable energy to power it. Experts are therefore calling for accelerated planning procedures, approvals for e-chargers at gas stations, the expansion of green electricity, and exemption of charging electricity from the EEG surcharge. The shortage becomes more serious, the more electric vehicles take to the roads. The German manufacturers alone offer a wide range of e-vehicles. At present they have over 70 models, and by the end of 2023 the number will rise to 150.

Stage Photo: © Polestar 

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