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Norway becoming electric car capital of the world

Norwegian motorists flocking to electric vehicles to reap financial benefits.

You might think electric cars are taking over California in the US, but the biggest adopter of green motoring is actually much closer to home. Norway is now home to 35,000 electric vehicles, which is an impressive figure when you consider a population of just five million.

Who knew Lego made cars?
Who knew Lego made cars?

Electric vehicles now represent 14.5 per cent of all new vehicle sales, according to a report in the Independent newspaper. A sales spike in May 2014 saw an additional 1,346 sales of battery-powered vehicles alone. There’s an electric car for every 142 people in the country.

The reason for Norway’s recent fascination with green motoring is one of money. Norway residents with an electric car get free parking, exemption from VAT, exemption from car tax, employment tax benefits and even free ferry journeys. That is worth £1,000 a year in savings, according to a recent study.

Not only that, it means motorists are spending less money and time at petrol stations. Wanting to save the planet is, of course, a factor too, but of secondary concern.

It helps that Tesla Motors has introduced a supercharger network across the country, letting motorists recharge a Tesla Model S range of 300-miles in 30 minutes ─ the time it takes to sit down and enjoy a coffee. Range anxiety is, therefore, less of an issue for Norwegians. Incidentally the Model S is the most popular car in the country, thanks to a total of 1,493 sales.

Naysayers will point out electricity production is polluting. This is true, except Norway is one of the few places where almost 100 per cent of its power comes from renewable sources.

Severely reducing its carbon footprint sounds like a win-win situation, but there are downsides. Norwegian government economist Bjart Holtsmark told the Independent: “If the goal of the EV policy is to have many EVs on the street, the Norwegian policy is a success. However, it is a basic misunderstanding that increasing the number of EVs is a goal by itself.”

“We do not know to what extent the many EVs in Norway have replaced traditional cars. If the EVs to a large extent have come in addition, the result is higher CO2 emissions, not lower,” he added.

Holtsmark also noted the increase in electric vehicles was likely to be detrimental to other modes of transport, with bus lanes busier than ever and cyclists potentially having more vehicles on the road to worry about.

Tesla Motors’ home of California is another advocate of the electric car movement, but it pales in comparison. Of the 20 million cars on the road, 50,000 of which are electric vehicles ─ that’s one for every 400 cars in the US state.

There is much the UK could learn from Norway, chief of which would be making electric cars more tempting. Given the high initial cost of an electric vehicle and either the concern of replacing the expensive batteries in years to come or paying a monthly fee to lease them, a plug-in grant of £5,000 isn’t quite enough.

Only those with an enviable amount of disposable income, then, can benefit from electric ownership in the financial sense.

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