The glory days of Norwegian electro-mobility success and the struggle to stay in the spotlight

ThinkstockPhotos-481264884 Credit: Think Stock Photos

Ever since Bellona imported Norway’s first modern electric vehicle in 1989, the country has grown to become one of the world’s leaders on electro-mobility. Now, with its recently announced goal of new car sales to be 100% zero-emission vehicles from 2025, the country needs to keep up the pace and maintain the success it has obtained so far.

Incentives a crucial tool in the transition phase to electric mobility

So far, Norwegian EV owners have been able to benefit from various fiscal and usage incentives put in place by the government to drive the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Norway is a success story, enjoying the highest penetration of EVs per capita in the world, and has served as a source of inspiration for the electrification of road transport in Europe as well as globally. The incentives are an important political tool for boosting EV sales, and their removal risks negatively impacting the development of electric mobility in this important moment.

EV owners in Norway enjoy exemptions from high rates of VAT. This has had an enormous effect in motivating their purchase decisions, given Norway is a country where taxes can double or even triple a car’s purchase price[1]. In recognition of their importance, the Norwegian government has pledged to keep core incentives, such as no VAT, no one-off registration tax and lowered annual circulation tax until at least 2020[3].

Figure-1 Achievements so far; Incentives were put in place by the government initially until 2017, or until passing 50 000 registered EVs [10] Credit: Noun Project

Electro-mobility a key political issue in upcoming Norwegian elections

Earlier this year fully electric vehicles and plug in hybrids combined accounted for roughly 40% of new car sales. However, more recently, we’ve observed Norwegian sales of EVs flattening out. This can be attributed to the Norwegian government’s recent delegation of several EV incentives to local authorities, which now decide on parking fees, road tolls, free charging, free transfer ferries, free charging spots and access to bus lanes[2]. All these aspects create uncertainty on consumer level, nevertheless the core incentives are kept, which is important in Norway – a country where taxes can double the initial purchase price of a vehicle.

The city of Trondheim has already seen negative consequences resulting from the withdrawal of incentives. After re-establishing equal parking fees for EVs and fossil fuel cars, the sale of the EVs went down by 21% in the county[3]. However, numbers show that this reaction by consumers is unjustified, as even in the absence of such usage incentives, EVs are remain cheaper than their fossil fuelled counterparts, based on maintenance and fuel costs[4].

Despite Norwegian elections approaching later this year in September, the EV incentives are under no immediate threat of getting further watered down. Electrification of transport plays an important role in Norwegian politics and its roadmap to become a carbon neutral country within 2050.

Infrastructure an equally important aspect

Besides the political drivers behind electro-mobility, a smooth and user-friendly experience is necessary to make EVs competitive vis-à-vis fossil fuelled cars. The Norwegian government has invested in many public charging spots for this purpose. Last month a highly anticipated public charging garage opened its doors in the heart of Oslo, offering 87 EV charging spots[5]. The very same month another public parking lot was opened, at Vulkan area in Oslo city center[6] which includes 100 flexi-chargers with up to 22 kW charging, and two fast chargers with 50 kW. The residents of the neighbourhood can enjoy free charging in the evenings and nights, besides a regular parking fee during daytime and extra fee for fast charging.

The municipality of Oslo acknowledge the need to speed up the development of charging infrastructure in buildings, with the particularly high sales of EVs in the capital region. This is important as most people live in flats and there are limited charging spots available in buildings. Bellona urges EU policy makers and Member States to safeguard necessary provisions to pre-equip new and substantially refurbished buildings with EV charging infrastructure via the ongoing reform of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive.

ThinkstockPhotos-184199129 Credit: Think Stock Photos

Connecting Scandinavian cities

Outside of Norway’s capital region, one of the country’s largest charging companies, Grønn Kontakt, rolls out its plan to add 100 new fast charging spots across the country[7]. The company meets competition with Fortum and CLEVER, which are currently developing plans for networks of “ultra-fast” chargers between large cities in Scandinavia[8]. In the period 2018 until 2020 there will be “ultra-fast chargers” in 20 stations between main cities and these will be connected to a network between Scandinavian and European cities.

The new charging stations are targeting new EV models with over 300 km capacity. New EVs will be able to drive further on the same time as combustion engine cars. Such ultra-fast chargers have an effect of 150-350 kW, while today most chargers offer an effect of 50 kW. With this offer, EVs will be able to charge six times faster, tackling one of the main concerns when it comes to EV ownership. Besides, Norway can enjoy yet another world record, with its biggest supercharger station for Tesla’s in Nebbenes outside of Oslo, which opened last year and offers 20 chargers with impressive effect of 120kW[9].