Norway’s Electric Vehicle Expansion

What can organisations learn from Norway’s electric success?

Perhaps the most outstanding indicator of the rise of renewables has been the economic viability of electric cars. Prior to improvements in energy storage solutions, mass investment by automakers, and the support of official bodies, electric vehicles (EVs) were understandably viewed as an ambitious dream. Despite scepticism, the market is experiencing considerable growth. Global organisations are taking EVs seriously, putting in place long term strategies to make mass electric car use a reality. As well as automakers, governments are working to create the infrastructure needed to fuel the electric future of transportation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Norway.

There’s no way like Norway

As of the beginning of this year, more than half of all new cars sold in Norway were either fully electric or hybrid models. In 2017, sales of diesel cars fell from 31 to 23 per cent. By 2025, the country aims to only sell zero emissions cars. The strategy is a bold one; levying heavy taxation on cars powered by fossil fuels while generously subsidising electric and hybrid alternatives. This includes the provision of free or subsidised parking, charging, and road tolls. As tempting as it sounds, building a successful electric car strategy is not as simple as copying Norway. Other countries have struggled to achieve a similar level of adoption for various reasons, but the main obstacle is cost. The Scandinavian stronghold occupies a privileged position, with the biggest sovereign wealth fund in the world. Ironically, this fund has been amassed from oil and gas revenues. That being said, the country now generates almost all of its energy from hydropower, so pursuing clean energy outlets like EVs makes complete sense. But while Norway could certainly be viewed as a role model for the uptake of electric cars, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. To make up for revenue lost through subsidies, the government has proposed a one off fee for registering electric cars that weigh over two tonnes. The so called ‘Tesla Tax’ could add up to $12,000 to the price of a Tesla Model X. This apparent step backwards has led to fierce criticism. What can countries and companies learn from Norway’s strict strategy, and what does it mean for the future of EV development?

An isolated case?

For the most part, Norway’s approach has been largely successful. This is hardly surprising, due to the fact that people like cheap (or better, free) things. If the major barrier to electric car adoption is cost, removing this obstacle has made Norway an obvious leader. But the country, with its chunky sovereign fund, advanced clean energy capabilities and public support, could be described as an isolated case. Other governments will have to rely on different routes. Tax benefits are a strong motivator, but should go hand in hand with other strategies that help people and environments gradually transition to electric travel. At the end of the day, it’s up to consumers whether or not they buy an electric or hybrid car. This means that a major hurdle for governing bodies is to challenge and change attitudes. Norway’s Tesla Tax seems like a reversal of their otherwise commendable efforts to do exactly this. However, a serendipitous consequence of the tax might be to encourage the production of EVs that are lighter and less damaging to roads. And, as stated, it’s only a one off charge for early adopters. Hopefully, the majority of people will avoid paying similar costs.

Norway provides nationwide proof that electric car adoption is fast becoming a reality. However, the country’s progress is the result of having the right resources, and perhaps most importantly, the cash to subsidise a developing infrastructure. Even so, there’s a lot that other organisations can learn from Norway’s head on approach, namely that public opinion is a priority. Although other countries might not be as ready for wider adoption, a solution could be to work together to develop persuasive initiatives. The electric future will be global, after all.

Does Norway present a realistic model for other countries? Should governments work together to encourage electric adoption? Will Norway achieve its goal of eliminating emissions producing cars by 2025? Share your thoughts.  

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