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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