If any country wants to know how to get more people to buy an EV, they only need look to Norway for answers. In March, more than 60% of all new car registrations in that country were for hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric cars, according to Dinside, a Norwegian news source.
Okay, the Norwegian car market is small compared to the United States. In March, there were only approximately 13,000 new cars sold in Norway. The US sells that many every hour. But 8,000 of those were something other than a conventional internal combustion powered car. 3,400 were hybrids, 2,600 were battery electric cars, and 2,000 were plug-in hybrids. The Nissan LEAF was the top seller of all alternative fuel cars. The Tesla Model S was fifth in total sales and the Renault Zoe was ninth.
What makes buying an EV so popular in Norway? Aggressive national policies that strongly favor those vehicles. Norway has steep taxes on new cars. Electric cars are exempt. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids pay reduced taxes. That policy alone makes an EV more price competitive with a conventional car. Norway allows EVs to use HOV lanes and park in preferred locations within its cities. They are also exempt from tolls for Norway’s many ferries, bridges, and tunnels.
It’s generous policies have seen EV sales surge recently. But the incentives cost quite a lot of money. Sources say the national treasury has taken in $1.2 billion less in revenue during the past two years because of the sales tax exemption. But Norway remains fully committed to is carbon reduction goals. It is planing to invest $1 billion to build bicycle paths for commuters in its largest cities.
Some top officials think it is time to dial back on some of the perks like free parking and HOV privileges, but there are no plans to eliminate or reduce the tax incentives. Norway wants all new cars sold in the country to be zero emissions vehicles by 2025. By that standard, the California Air Resources Board standards look downright benevolent.
If the US is serious about reducing carbon emissions from its transportation sector, it could follow Norway’s example of generous fiscal and social incentives. It is doubtful, in a nation where 60% of the citizens are represented in Congress by someone who is in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, that the country has the political will to emulate Norway’s approach.
It would also require a change in the mindset of consumers. Norwegian roads are not inundated with gargantuan SUVs or Super Duper Duty pickup trucks. Some people think Americans have a constitutional right to drive hulking behemoths. So long as that attitude prevails, EV sales in the US will remain a small fraction of the total market.
Image credit: Ståle Frydenlund/Elbilforeningen via AutoBlog