EVs made up more than half of car sales in Norway last year

Norwegians love Audi and Tesla EVs.

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A Tesla Motors electric car drives on a street in the Norwegian capital Oslo on April 30, 2019. - Rich or not, young and old, hip urbanites and rural dwellers alike: Norwegians, including Crown Prince Haakon, are increasingly switching to electric cars. The choice is especially green in this country, where most of the electricity produced is environmentally-friendly, derived from hydro power. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

More than half of all cars sold in Norway are now electric, claims new data from the country’s Road Federation. Reuters is reporting that, across 2020, EVs made up 54 percent of all new car sales, a figure that jumps even higher if you include plug-in and hybrid vehicles as well. The statistics show “pure” petrol and diesel vehicles constituted just eight and nine percent of all cars sold in the country last year.  Norway’s most popular cars include Audi’s e-tron, Volkswagen’s Golf, as well as Hyundai’s Konda, the Nissan Leaf and Tesla’s Model 3.

This isn’t the first time that EV sales have reached eye-catching proportions in Norway, but this is the first time the trend has been reflected through a whole year. In March 2019, Norsk Elbilforening (EV Norway) reported that March 2019 was the first month that EVs outsold their petrol-powered rivals. Since then, the trend has waxed and waned, but generally moved toward EVs and away from fossil fuels. 

Norway’s EV boom has been in the works for several decades, and shows the power of a good incentive scheme to make radical change. The country is one of a number of European countries that took advantage of a domestic oil boom through the 20th century. North Sea Oil brought riches to several nations, each of which used their newly-found wealth in very different ways, with dramatically different outcomes. The UK, for instance, used the cash to fund tax cuts for the wealthy through the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. 

By comparison, in 1990, Norway began pushing profits from its oil reserves into a new sovereign wealth fund. That fund was used to make investments in a number of industries, and is now worth more than $1 trillion. Norway has used its enormous bank balance to fund its domestic transition toward electric vehicles with very generous subsidies, including no purchase or import taxes, no road tax and either free or heavily discounted fees for toll roads, parking, ferries and company car tax. EV drivers are also entitled to use bus lanes and receive subsidies for scrapping older, fossil-fuel-powered vehicles.

For every carrot, there is also a stick, and Norway has increased the tax burden on gas-powered cars to encourage EV purchases. In one example, EV Norway explains that a standard VW Golf is taxed to the tune of €12,000 ($14,700) to make the e-Golf cheaper in a side-by-side comparison. Norway has used some of that cash to fund infrastructure investment, including building a fast charging station every 30 miles or so on the country’s main roads. All of this means that it expects, by 2025, to be able to end sales of fossil fuel-powered cars completely.

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