Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.


The best of solutions journalism in the sustainability space, published monthly.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Leon Kaye headshot

Norway Expands Its Role as the World’s Electric Vehicle Leader

By Leon Kaye

Although battery range is improving and designs are more appealing, electric vehicles still face a long road ahead in order to gain drivers’ acceptance. The 30-month-long slump in petroleum prices is not helping; neither is range anxiety (the fear of being stranded on a roadside with no electric power). In most industrialized nations, electric cars have a market share of around 1 percent at best.

But oil-rich Norway continues to dominate when it comes to battery-powered cars.

Norway welcomed its 100,000th all-electric car in December. And 2016 concluded with sales of over 130,000 new vehicles that either have an all-electric drive train or are a plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), according to the Norway EV Association. That is triple the amount of electric cars on Norway’s cars just two years earlier.

In 2015, the New York Times estimated that electric car had only a 2 percent market share in Norway – which was still good enough to double that of the global runner-up, the Netherlands. But last year beat records, and the trend continued into 2017.

Sales of electric cars continued to surge last month, with all-electric models making up 37 percent of all new cars sold, the automotive blog Electrek reported this week. Over 350 Tesla models were delivered last month within the country of 5 million people. And newer models, such as the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, continue to make their debut in Norway -- where the registration of new electric cars far outpaces other European countries.

Despite all that growth, electric car sales still only account for about 5 percent of all the automobiles in Norway, The Economist reported. Nevertheless, sales of electric vehicles are expected to surge in the coming years, especially as their designs become more appealing and their range keeps extending.

So, what is Norway's secret to electrified roadways?

Norway’s government has been aggressively pushing incentives for electric cars since the late 1990s. Electric vehicles are exempt from the high value added taxes (VAT) that make conventional automobiles far more pricey in Norway than in other industrialized countries. Electric car drivers also avoid paying road tolls, they can park in city centers for free, and they also have access to bus lanes. In addition, municipalities including the country’s capital, Oslo, offer financial support to install charging stations in neighborhoods or aside office buildings if they are lacking.

The allure of purchasing an electric car was so attractive that the Norwegian government moved to slash incentives in 2015 after its goal of selling 50,000 EVs was achieved three years early. Many of those generous perks, however, were reintroduced last year and have been extended.

Some analysts suggest the growing popularity of electric cars means they will dominate Norway’s streets within a decade – making the country's proposed ban of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2025 unnecessary.

Norway’s push to have citizens drive all-electric cars complements the country’s sustainability agenda.

The country’s sovereign wealth fund divested from coal companies last. And the city of Oslo aims to halve its carbon emissions by 2020, a task that should be easier to achieve as electric cars become even more popular.

In the meantime, watch for electric vehicles to remain central to Norway’s drive to become less dependent on fossil fuels, as the country continues to open more charging stations while aiming to register 400,000 all-electric vehicles by 2020.

Image credit: Norsk Elbilforening/Wiki Commons

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye