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If an EV revolution could take place in Norway, it can happen anywhere.
Visiting Norway means seeing the future of electric cars. That's the feeling I got when I walked through the streets of Oslo a few weeks ago. Everywhere you see LEAFs, i3s and Teslas – as well as I-Paces, Kona EVs, E-Golfs and others.
You probably read 34 percent of it Norway car sales in 2018 were pure EVs. And this EV revenue will darken 50 percent of the market this year. But it is another thing for your head to circle around constantly when surrounded by electric cars. About every eighth car on the streets of Oslo is now electric.
To better understand what has led to the Norwegian EV revolution, I sat down with Christina Bu, the managing director of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association. The organization has 30 employees and 70,000 paying members. Members can answer questions about all EV topics via e-mail or through a call center. The group maintains eleven regional chapters, holds an annual gathering and will host the impressive ones Nordic EV Summit 2019 in a few weeks.
The key is price parity
"If we can do EVs in Norway, you can damn it," Bu said. She rejects any thought that the Norwegians are greener than the Americans, and quickly eliminates the theory "Norway is rich."
"We constantly get the question: why does it work in Norway? It's a simple answer, "explained Bu. "The price is more or less high." She said that regular consumers should not be expected to pay thousands of dollars for an unknown technology, especially for a large item like an automobile.
The fact that Norway levies high taxes on all cars – charges imposed on pure electric vehicles – is the mechanism that is at work in Norway. However, she believes there are several ways to price parity, such as the bonus-malus system in Sweden, which taxes polluting gas cars to pay for EV incentives.
She understands that the United States can not just copy a car taxation system, but "if you can do a little more, it's better than doing nothing." In addition, Bu sees that higher EV production volumes and lower battery costs are the result, of course, the substantial price equality. "They will get faster price equality globally than most people understand," she said.
Change happens quickly
As price equality was achieved in Norway and there were many electric cars for sale, the objections fell back. "Norway is a huge country. There are mountains and it is freezing cold. It's difficult to do the charging, "Bu told me. "Of course there are challenges, but it is not impossible. And in the United States, it's not impossible. "
In my few days in and around Oslo, driving and charging an EV was commonplace and mainstream – even in mid-February.
Even in the coldest and most rural district of Finnmark – near the Arctic Circle – last year about 7 percent of car sales were fully electric. With the launch of the 40 kWh and 150-mile LEAF, sales of a Nissan dealer in Finnmark increased from two units in 2017 to over 30 in 2018.
Other incentives, such as lower tolls, lower fuel costs and preferred parking, are helpful. For example, sales of electric vehicles in western island regions are exceptionally high where there are many toll bridges and roads – and zero-emission vehicles are excluded.
Regardless, according to Bu, consumers are not good at calculating the total cost of ownership. You want to see the price equality at the time of purchase.
Since the early 1990s, there have been high taxes on cars, but as the first practical electric cars, like the Nissan LEAFstarted arriving in 2011, the race took place.
Viktor Lander, a management consultant in Oslo, was one of the first buyers not motivated by climate change but by a combination of price equality and vehicle availability. "When I bought the car, the electric cars provided by the national and local authorities had many advantages," he said. "I bought the Nissan LEAF because it was the first family-sized vehicle that has received incredible benefits from the authorities."
Word of mouth
Bu described the meaning of the so-called neighborhood effect. She said sales in 2011 and 2012 were modest. "It was a bit slow, and suddenly your neighbor bought an electric vehicle. And then your colleague at work. And you know how enthusiastic EV owners can be, "she said. "Suddenly it started to spread."
Surveys by the Norwegian Association of Electric Vehicles have shown that new owners of electric vehicles usually persuade three others to buy an electric vehicle. The increase from 5 percent in 2013 to an expected 50 percent in 2019 was more abrupt than anyone had expected. "If you can have such a shift in six years, you can do that in America too," she said.
According to Bu, there are now 40,000 Norwegians who have submitted deposits for an electric car and wait for the arrival of the vehicle. This is in a country where 150,000 new cars are sold each year. If the Kona Electric – An Affordable, Long Range Electric Vehicle Great for Winter Driving – Last July, Hyundai received more than 7,000 pre-sales in just two weeks. The list of interested Kona EV buyers exceeds more than 20,000 people in Norway.
The implications for charge and fossil fuels
With a strong and sustained momentum for the sale of electric vehicles, the next challenge is public charging, according to Bu. Surveys by the association show that the vast majority of Norwegian electricians charge fees at home. But 80 percent state monthly to be quickly charged in public.
Norwegians like to visit winter huts or mountain destinations on the weekends. They rely on fast charge to get around the city and back again. Fifty-eight percent said they experienced either "occasional" or "frequent" queues at fast-charging stations.
"If we have 1.5 million electric cars in 2025, what happens on a Friday afternoon or Sunday?" Wondered Bu. "I dont know."
The association manages the problem by calculating the current number of cars per quick charger – currently about 120: 1 – and the length of the queues. This forms the basis for the organization's recommendations to the government regarding future cargo needs. "Norway is the first country to deal with it," she said. "We have nowhere else to look for and learn."
Car manufacturer, beware!
Meanwhile, the rapid increase in electric vehicles in Norway has attracted the attention of global automakers and oil companies. They often visit the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association to find out what it could mean for the future. More than a dozen automakers have met Bu. "My second job is to scare automakers," Bu said with a mischievous smile.
Consider the following: Mazda, which has no electric vehicle, halved its market share in Norway, Bu said. She told me that recently a car dealership in the area filed for bankruptcy, which accused the rise of electric vehicles and caused the dealer's substantial revenues from oil changes and other service visits.
Bu predicts that we will probably see one or two bankruptcies among major automakers over the next five years. Some years ago the international visitors of the association were mainly foreign journalists. Today, it is mostly car manufacturers, petroleum companies and petrol station chains. "It's a good thing," she said. "It shows that we are really starting to see the beginning of the shift."
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