The Future of Electric (Vehicles) Is Bright

By Paul Riegler on 12 July 2017
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The Grünerløkka district of Oslo

If you want a view into the future of electric vehicles, you need not look much farther than Scandinavia, specifically Norway and Sweden.

Drivers in Norway are adopting electric vehicles faster than anywhere else, where high taxes on conventionally-powered vehicles (i.e. diesels and gassers) alongside generous subsidies available to those purchasing EVs have effectively brought price parity to the market.

Indeed, more than one-third of the country’s new cars are either EVs or plug-in hybrids, ten times the number compared to the United States on a per capita basis. The Nordic nation has some 100,000 EVs on the road and, despite a far smaller population, is only behind the United States, which leads in absolute numbers, China, and Japan.

Then there’s Sweden, whose sole automaker, Volvo, just last week announced it will no longer offer conventionally-powered vehicles as of model year 2019.

Volvo, which is owned by Chinese automaker Geely, said it will offer an electric power train on all models by then, stating that it plans to place “electrification at the core of its future business.”

“People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs,” said the company’s CEO, Håkan Samuelsson.

The path to Norway’s high rate of adoption was simple. The incentives date back to the 1990s but only recently became important due to the much improved electric vehicles such as the BMW i3, the Nissan Leaf, and several Tesla models that have become available.

In Norway, EV buyers don’t pay the 25% value-added tax other car buyers pay, they are exempt from car-purchase taxes, and they pay discounted annual registration fees. Free charging stations can be found just about anywhere, EVs are not subject to paying tolls, they can use bus lanes to zip through traffic, and they ride free on ferries that cross Norway’s fjords.

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