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Norway reached a milestone last year. Only about 8 percent of the new cars sold in the country ran purely on conventional gasoline or diesel fuel. Two thirds of the new cars sold were electric cars, the rest were electric-gasoline hybrids.
Norway has been for years World leader in moving away from traditional cars, thanks to government benefits that made electric vehicles far more affordable and offered extras such as:
Even so, electric car enthusiasts are stunned by the speed where the internal combustion engine has become an endangered species in Norway.
“Most people were surprised at how quickly things changed,” says Christina Bu, General Secretary of the Norwegian EV Association, told me. In 2015, electric cars made up about 20 percent of new car sales, and now they’re “the new normal,” Bu said. (Your organization is like AAA for drivers of electric vehicles.)
Americans might see Norwegians as environmentally conscious people eager to get out of gasoline cars. But Bu and other transportation experts told me that Norwegians started out with the same skepticism about electric vehicles as Americans.
That changed because of government policies that picked the easier wins first and a growing number of attractive electric cars. Over time, this combination has led more Norwegians to believe that electric cars are right for them. Bu wrote recently that if Norway could do the same, so could the US and other countries.
Transportation is the greatest source of Greenhouse gas emissions in the US, and climate scientists have said the move away from internal combustion engine vehicles is significant to avoid the worst effects of a warming planet. Electric car sales in the US are growing rapidly, but at around 3 percent of new cars, Percentages are wide lower as those in most other rich countries.
What did Norway do right? Bu said the country’s policies initially focused on the least difficult: nudging people who are considering converting a new car to electric.
Norwegians who bought new electric cars did not have to pay the country’s very high taxes on new car sales. This made electric cars a matter of course for many, and it didn’t hurt those who already owned or bought conventional cars.
Bu also said Norway was not crippled by the reasoned objections to electric vehicles – What about places where they can be charged?? Are subsidies for electric cars government support for the rich? In other words, Norway did not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Not every country has a tax system that is so well suited to encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles. (Gasoline taxes are very high in Norway too.) But Bu suggested that in order for this to work in the US, we could put higher taxes on the most polluting new car models and use that money to subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles.
Subsidies for electric cars alone not enough to increase electric vehicle ownership, although they have added momentum in Norway. As more and more new electric cars hit the streets, it became tastier to build more charging stations. Automakers began to focus their marketing more on electric vehicles, launching more models with different prices and functions. It is easy starts to happen in the US
These are not easy political decisions in Norway or anywhere else, said Anders Hartmann from Asplan Viak, a Norwegian planning and engineering consultancy.
It was manageable to let EV drivers skip parking or tolls when few were on the roads, Hartmann told me, but some local governments recently said they are losing money they used to fund local public transport. Norwegian lawmakers have discussed reducing the tax breaks for electric vehicles, but that’s difficult because they are popular.
Bu told me that the biggest change in Norway is that most people believe that electric cars are for them. “What really surprised me was the change in mentality,” she said.
Her father was once one of those people who said they’d never buy an electric car, she said. Now her parents own one too.
Before we go …
These cats – including one that was described as a “questionable sentient dust bunny” – sat on the Vitamix box and THEY DO NOT MOVE.
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