The Scandinavian country breaks records for the number electric cars circulating on its roads and intends to prohibit the sale of combustion engine vehicles by 2025. Its objective: to have the cleanest air in the world.
Mark Østberg is sick of electric cars. Not of their capacity to circulate without emitting harmful gases or of their silent running. The problem is that they have been so successful in Norway in recent years that at present, one out of every five vehicles does not have a combustion engine. He sees them everywhere in his city, Oslo. “It is becoming increasingly common for someone you know to have an electric car. They grow like potatoes,” says the thirty-year-old web designer, and he finishes with a surprising: “I also have one.”
“In the centre of Oslo, where I live, there are always traffic jams. Now we have the same traffic, but the air is much more breathable. And it’s less noisy.” -Mark Østberg
“In the centre of Oslo, where I live, there are always traffic jams. Now we have the same traffic, but the air is much more breathable. And it’s less noisy.”
So then, why is he fed up? The problem is that electric cars, among other things, can drive along the lane reserved for buses, which he takes every morning to go to work. And since the lanes have become crowded with these emission-free vehicles, public transport is no longer punctual. It is a minor drawback, which simultaneously demonstrates a marvellous reality: Today, Norway is the kingdom of electric cars. And it has demonstrated that the transition to emission-free mobility is possible.
“It’s quite noticeable,” says Østberg, “in the centre of Oslo, where I live, there are always traffic jams.” Now we have the same traffic, but the air is much more breathable. And it’s less noisy,” he admits.
As well as being able to drive along the bus lane, electric cars have many more advantages in Norway. They do not pay the €3 toll fee imposed on combustion engine vehicles entering the centre of Oslo and other large cities. Neither do buyers pay VAT or even for the charging with electricity: thanks to the good functioning of its renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, the price per kilowatt is very low and the government can afford to subsidise this. Additionally, the charging point network is very extensive and in many roads there are quick charging points.
All this is of particular importance in the Scandinavian country, it we consider that the price of petrol is far higher than the European average: at present, a litre costs approximately €2. And to round off the deal, electric cars are exempt from paying at parking meters, a measure also adopted in Spain.
“The incentives were initiated in 2013, because there is a draft law to prohibit the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025. But what has occurred surpassed all our expectations,” says Østberg. If we look at the figures, we can understand what he means. The government’s intention was to have 50,000 electric cars circulating on the country’s roads. But the number already exceeds 100,000. In all of Europe there are half a million, which means that one of out of every five drivers of an electric vehicle is Norwegian.
Although it falls behind China, the United States and Japan, we must bear in mind that we are talking about a country that barely exceeds five million inhabitants. Undoubtedly, the fact that it ranks fourth in the world is a remarkable feat.
The Norwegian Government aims to extend tax incentives up to 2020 and its objective is for 30% of cars to be electric by that year. They are on the right track: last January, sales of this type of vehicle, together with those of plug-in hybrids, accounted for nearly half of the total. The consequences are beginning to be noticed: Norway already fulfils the emission objectives of its automotive fleet, established in the Paris Accord for 2020 as a measure against climate change. A recent study by the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association (NEVA) has revealed that last year it prevented the emission of 200 thousand tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.
“Aside from the minor drawback of public transport, we Norwegians are very proud of what we are achieving and of seeing how we are mentioned in the news as an example to follow,” says Østberg. Undoubtedly, other countries must follow it.