Norway electric car denies national dependence on fossil fuels

Norway became the first country to sell more electric cars than petrol, hybrid and diesel engines gathered last year, according to new data, with electric battery-powered vehicles (BEVs) accounting for two-thirds of sales in the last months of 2020.

Norway has one of the most ambitious green targets in the world, planning to stop selling all new fossil fuel vehicles by 2025, five years ahead of the United Kingdom.

It is quite a contradiction in a country that has become one of the richest in the world due to oil and gas revenues, is dependent on oil and clings to further production, even as the world increasingly discards fossil fuels in search for zero emissions.

While the government is bidding for oil exploration permits for fragile Arctic fields, it is aiming for a national carbon-neutral vehicle by 2030. On Friday, it submitted its national climate plan, which included an ambitious goal. that, from next year, the public sector should only supply zero – emission vehicles.

While Norway is still one of the largest oil producers in the world, it gets more than 90% of its power from hydroelectric sources. This explains why the introduction of electric vehicles has been so successful: as long as rivers and waterfalls do not dry out, this is an infinite source of power that can also be applied to vehicles. Even north, where the distances between the settlements are huge and in the winter cold extreme, the electric car gains a stronghold.

Christina Bu, head of the Norwegian Electric Vehicles Association, said: “Over the autumn of last year, we saw an increase of up to 40% in market share in the northernmost regions of Norway, Troms and Finnmark.”

Behind the success lies a long-term political strategy, he said. “One can assume that these are subsidies. Is not. It’s all about taxing what we don’t want and promoting what we do I am doing I want.”

Greenpeace activists board an oil rig in a fjord off the west coast of Norway in 2018
Greenpeace activists boarded an oil rig in a fjord off the west coast of Norway in 2018. The country is one of the largest oil producers in the world. Photo: Reuters

Norway has some of the highest taxes in the world in terms of luxury items, which include cars. Thus, reduced vehicle taxes, with many incentives, are bound to entice car buyers. There are a number of incentives and exceptions such as:

• Excluding vehicle tax (a large levy that helps increase the average price of a vehicle in Norway to 43 43,000 – .000 46,000, compared to the EU average of 26 26,000 £ 29,000)

• Excluding VAT – usually 25%

• Zero tax

• Free parking in some municipal parking lots

• Reduced tax on the company’s electric cars (with a lower rate than fossil fuel vehicles)

• Reduced or free tolls in some areas

• Driving in a bus lane if carrying a passenger

• 50% discount on certain parking spaces, tolls and fares

The ambitious political strategy dates back to the late 1990s, when it was introduced to stimulate the production of Norwegian electric cars and reduce emissions.

It is not completely over. Norwegian-made BEVs are still being felt in their absence, by the joy of foreign carmakers. However, the number of electric cars sold increased from 3% of total sales in 2012 to 54% in 2020. There are 2.8 million vehicles on Norwegian roads and more than 260,000 are fully electric, almost 9% of the total car stock. Next year, almost 40 new BEV models will be launched in the Norwegian market, more than the number of fossil fuels and hybrid models.

“Norway has definitely paved the way for industry,” said Per Espen Stoknes, a Green MP, TED global speaker and assistant professor at BI Norwegian business school, and a psychologist whose latest book is the psychology of climate action.

Stocken described the process of expanding the BEV National Park as a “green tax shift” that any country could endure if it focused on the right things. As a psychologist, he also stressed the power of social pressure, especially in densely populated cities.

“We were able to prove statistically that there is a result that goes hand in hand with Jones. That is, if someone on a street buys a BEV, the neighbors are more likely to follow suit. It can turn into a greener competition in which envy, as always, is a strong driving force. “

As in the United Kingdom, the challenge is to set up charging points across the country. There are now 3,200 fast charging points managed by about 10 companies working to develop faster and faster chargers. Problems remain, especially on the busiest days of the journey, with BEV drivers facing long queues and chargers not working. Bu said, “We need to constantly encourage the development of further and more reliable chargers.”

The more electric cars are sold, the harder it is for critics to hear. However, although BEVs are environmentally friendly locally, they still have a large global climate. Making BEV batteries requires expensive and rare metals, and the safe disposal of used and broken batteries is a problem. Both concerns are easily addressed in poor, vulnerable countries – such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which produces 60% of the world’s cobalt – that do not have legislation to address them.

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