It’s Official: In Norway, Electric Cars Are No-Longer Niche Market Vehicles

In pretty much every industrialised nation in the world, electric cars are still considered something of a niche-market vehicle, viewed as either eco-friendly wheels for the wealthy, liberal middle classes or worse still, as a plaything for A-list celebrities.

Luckily, the casting of plug-in cars as niche-market vehicles is slowly changing thanks to improved education, generous incentives and wider consumer choice, but even with plug-in sales rocketing in recent months, electric cars still account for a tiny percentage of all new cars in every country around the world.

Except that is, for the European country  of Norway, where plug-in cars now account for more than fifteen percent of the new car marketplace and owning an electric vehicle is as everyday as heading out for a summer hike or winter cross-country ski.

As Hybrid Cars (via Autobloggreendetails, new car market share for electric vehicles recently soared over fifteen percent for the first time, with more electric cars on its roads per capita than many other, much larger European nations.

Despite years of nascent support from small communities across Norway and niche-market, small-volume electric automakers, electric car sales figures for Norway didn’t really take off until the Norwegian Government codified a set of specific incentives designed to encourage electric car adoption, utilising the nation’s 98 percent domestically-generated renewable energy.

To start with, the Norwegian Government exempts electric car owners from paying sales tax when buying a new car, a tax which can be as much as 100 percent of the sticker price of the car for large, inefficient cars like luxury SUVs. Then it offers plug-in car owners free parking and charging in all of Norway’s major cities.

While most people won't see snow until winter starts, autumn is the perfect time to start using preconditioning controls.

While most people won’t see snow until winter starts, autumn is the perfect time to start using preconditioning controls.

Finally, it grants electric cars automatic access to bus lanes, allowing electric car owners to avoid traffic jams and commute more quickly in the rush-hour.

These incentives — designed to help Norway achieve a goal of at least 50,000 electric cars on the nation’s roads by 2017 — have long been considered the gold standard of plug-in car incentive programs, and have been so successful that they incentive program may hit its 50,000 vehicle target as early as next year.

To try and visualise just how important and how popular electric cars are to the people of Norway, the folks at Autobloggreen point out that the Ford F-Series pickup, the biggest-selling model family in the U.S., accounts for around five percent of all U.S. new car sales. And while the numbers themselves are far greater (Norway’s car market being relatively small due to its tiny 5.1 million population) we think that if you’re struggling to imagine three times the number of Ford F-Series pickups on the roads of the U.S. in order to gauge just how large a market share 15 percent is, we think you’ll understand just how popular electric cars are in Norway.

Both the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S are popular plug-in cars in Norway.

Both the Nissan LEAF and the Tesla Model S are popular plug-in cars in Norway.

Or, to put it another way, imagine one in every six new cars being sold in the Atlanta Metro Area, Georgia being an electric car. As well as having a population a few hundred thousand larger than the population of Norway, the Atlanta Metro Area happens to be the number one U.S. market for electric cars today, yet its electric vehicle sales account for somewhere between two and three percent of all new car sales –more than five times smaller than Norway’s electric car market share.

With its electric vehicle target on track to being met two years early, Norway is now trying to decide if it should end all of its electric car incentives or moderate them, but whatever the outcome, its experiment cannot be called anything but a resounding success.

There’s only one question left: how long before electric cars become mainstream in other parts of the world?

Leave your predictions and thoughts in the Comments below.


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  • Espen Hugaas Andersen

    It’s been fascinating to have been around to see the rise of the electric car. Ca 2011, I’d be rubbernecking if I saw a Leaf, but now, it barely registers if I see 5 different Model S at the same time.nnOne comment to the video: When the president of the EV association talks about car companies who have yet to launch an electric car, she meant Toyota. Toyota has been really negative about electric car incentives, even going as far as saying that the other car companies are using Norway as a “dumping ground” for electric cars that they haven’t been able to sell elsewhere. And of course, that’s natural. Since last year, Toyota’s market share has dropped from 13.1% to 11.2%. Next year they’ll probably end up below 10%.nnAnd regarding the future; it’s unlikely that EVs will be taxed more heavily very soon. The minority goverment is dependent on support from one of the greener parties, who strongly support the electric car incentives. And the ruling parties themselves aren’t strongly against the incentives. They are anti-taxation.nnThe interesting thing now is that the budget negotiations that are ongoing now may lead to reduced taxes on plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrids (including the Outlander PHEV and Ampera) now only account for about 1% of car sales, but if one of the primary supporting parties for the ruling parties gets their way, taxes on plug-in hybrids would be reduced by around $10.000. It would be good to achieve a 15% electric car share and 10% plug-in hybrid share in 2015. 🙂

    • u00abNorway as a “dumping ground” for electric cars that they haven’t been able to sell elsewhere.u00bbnnNot true u2026 while Norway has a high percentage of PEVs it is not a dumping ground, the market is customer driven. Consumers are choosing BEVs over PHEVs and Hybrids in increasing numbers. The contrast between PHEV and BEV sales numbers for October tell an increasingly common story.nnBeyond Norway, the west coast of US has electric vehicle sales of over 6%. Some models like the LEAF have exceeded 1% of market sales (eg: Washington state which has few incentives). The west coast (BC, CA, OR, & WA) are on track to exceed 10% PEV sales by 2020.nnAlso, electric vehicle sales in the UK shot up in September breaking monthly records. Similar reports of increased PEV numbers were also noted from China. Norway is not unique, it just has a couple years lead on other countries.

      • Espen Hugaas Andersen

        Yeah. I agree completely.nnThe incentives in Norway do the same thing as 5 years of industrialization of the EV technology does. Toyota won’t know what hit them.

  • In Ontario recently, the Smart ED was on offer for $150/month taxes included lease for 3 years, with $1000 down. That’s amazing, and of course, the entire Canadian inventory was sold out, with Smart shipping unsold inventory of Smart Fortwo Electric Drive models from all over the country to send to Toronto dealers. It was the top most selling electric car in one month ever in Canada.nnnWhen priced right, electric cars sell. It isn’t the range limitations that prevent these cars from selling, it is price.nnnTo my mind, battery cost reductions will eventually over the next 5-8 years lead to mass adoption.nnnRight now, the Smart ED is fully 40% of the sales of Fortwo models in North America. Meaning, it sells almost as equally well as a gas powered car.

    • Range is still a factor.nnnFor high mileage commuters, short range EV’s don’t compute. They would make sense financially since those who drive the furthest stand to save the most. But you have to be able to make the journey comfortably before the sale occurs.nnnFor low mileage commuters, the increased price of EV’s is a barrier, once the price comes down folks are happy to buy EV’s to make modest journeys.nnnOnce 150 mile EV’s are commonly available for about $30,000 watch long range commuters buy them like they are going out of fashion. That day maybe just a few short years away if we are to believe manufacturers claims.

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