Lessons from Norway’s electric surge

In April 2015, Norway reached its goal of bringing 50,000 electric cars onto the streets – three years earlier than planned thanks to a generous scheme of incentives. Today more than 120,000 electric vehicles are driving on Norwegian roads. However, not every incentive works out as it should, so what the European Union can learn from the Scandinavian state?

As a recent study by Transport & Environment shows, Europe will shortly see half a million electric vehicles (EVs) on its roads; as sales of EVs doubled in 2015 and are expected to growth continuously. In terms of EU sales (so, excluding Norway) the Netherlands leads statistics for the third year in a row. But big differences remain between European countries in terms of EV market development.

Incentives in Norway for EV purchase and use have been generous: electric cars are exempted from value added as well as purchase tax, which constitute around half of the purchasing price of a new car, on average. Also, EVs are allowed to use bus lanes, are granted free parking and charging, and are exempted from road and tunnel tolls.

Several EU member states, including the UK, France, Germany and Sweden, have already rolled out national subsidising schemes in order to foster the uptake of EVs. Measures include grants and tax exemptions, which have already demonstrated their effectiveness in Norway.

However, Kristine Korneliussen, Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communication, Norway, said during a T&E event that incentives for EVs were sometimes colliding with wider transport policy goals such as convincing more Norwegians to use public transport. For example, by allowing electric cars to use the bus lane, congestion during rush hour is increasing along with sales of EVs. For T&E, EV incentives need to go hand in hand with electrification of other transport means such as small and light vehicles, rail, buses, logistics and freight, as well as incentives for vehicle sharing, which would ameliorate increased traffic created by a surge in EV sales.