A country fuelled by hydropower has become the worlds electric vehicle leader

In 1995, the lead singer of the 1980 s band -Aha and the head of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona clambered improbably into a converted electric Fiat Panda they had imported from Switzerland and set off on a road trip.

They drove around Oslo refusing to pay the city’s sky-high road tolls, parking illegally wherever they are unable to, and dismissing every retribution notice they were given. Eventually, the authorities concerned impounded their car and auctioned it off to cover the fines.

But the stunt attracted massive media attention, and the point was obliged. Soon after, electric vehicles were exempted from road fees, one of a large raft of motivations that have, over the years, helped shape Norway the country with the world’s highest per capita electric vehicle ownership.

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Last month, in an economy hit by the coronavirus crisis, amply electric cars accounted for just under 60% of Norway’s new gondola marketplace, and plug-in composites precisely over 15%- meaning three in four of all brand-new cars sold were either wholly or partly electric.

It still has some style to go, but the country looks on direction to meet a government target- set in 2016, with full cross-party parliamentary support- of phasing out the sale of all brand-new fossil-fuel based vehicles and light-colored commercial vehicles by 2025.

” It’s actually quite amazing how quickly the mindset’s changed ,” said Christina Bu of the Norwegian EV Electric Vehicle Association.” Even in 2013 or 2014, beings were sceptical. Now, a majority of Norwegians will say: my next vehicle will be electrical .”

The story of how and why that has happened has a straightforward, if unexpected reasoning. First, despite being a major oil and gas producer, almost all of Norway’s domestic force comes from a single, and renewable, informant: hydropower.

That signifies switching to EVs is a much greener option for Norway than for countries whose power is generated predominantly by coal flowers- and that if it wants to significantly reduce its radiation stages, it has little choice but to dark-green its transport sector.

Driven by the environmental imperative, the government began offering incentives to buy and run electric cars as far back as 1990, first by introducing a temporary exception from Norway’s exorbitant vehicle purchase tax, which became permanent six years later.

” This represents an important step ,” Bu said.” Norway was a very poor country before we discovered lubricant; automobiles were a indulgence part. They’ve always been tariffed very highly. Automobiles in Norway are a lot more expensive than elsewhere. Without the acquire imposition, the cost of an electric car basically fell to that of an ordinary car .”

Since then, electric car operators have been given the right to park for free in some municipal parking lot, drive in bus trails, take boats without air tickets and, thanks to -Aha, drive toll-free. They are not required to pay VAT on their vehicles, or road imposition, and firm electric cars are taxed at a lower pace than petrol or diesel vehicles.

Some measures have changed over the years: to be allowed to drive in a bus trail, for example, you now need to be carrying a passenger. A so-called 50% convention was introduced in 2017, allowing local authorities to charge EV operators up to 50% of the parking costs, street tolls and shuttle frequencies applicable to fossil-fuel vehicles.

But overall, said Bu, the” combination of a big one-off saving when you buy the car, plus the substantially lower costs- ga, fees, parking, upkeep- of actually driving it, still includes up to a very powerful fiscal disagreement. Over its lifetime, “youve been” save a lot of money with an electric car in Norway .”

That was certainly what urged Wenche Charlotte Egelund, 57, who purchased a VW Golf Electric with her marriage two years ago when they moved out of central Oslo.” The motivations is of paramount importance ,” she said.” The levy and VAT exemptions, free municipal parking, free toll roads that means that we are avoid the rush-hour traffic jams .”

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EV bill stations at Kongens Gate near Akershus Festning in Oslo. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

In fact, Egelund said, the incentives were so significant that she virtually” felt the decision was imposed on me. Financially, it was like there was no other sensible option. I do wonder whether it really is as light-green as we are told. Is a automobile moving on clean diesel certainly worse than the environmental impact of producing an EV battery ?”

Rachel Ritman, 56, a postwoman living on the outskirts of Fredrikstad, bought her Opel Ampera two years ago and said she has not regretted her select, even though they are she was ” not sure we would have gone electrical without the incentives “. The car’s array was good, she said: 250 miles( 400 km) in summer, 200 miles( 320 km) in winter and because she charges at home she does not suffer from ” lade-angst”, or the concerns of running out of juice.

Both Ritman and Egelund have a second, diesel-powered car for extra-long jaunts, to country rooms or vacations. Sten Brathen, 55, a media consultant, bought his Nissan Leaf as a second car” for taking the children around and driving to work. But there were so many advantages that “when hes” get a brand-new main car last year we didn’t think twice about travelling electric .”

Government incentives were vital in the decision to buy, Brathen said:” I think we would have managed without the other incentives- free toll roads and parking- but the actual cost of buying was so much lower than ordinary vehicles here in Norway .” He informed, though, that Norway was going to need more billing stations.

Despite the incentives, EV marketings in Norway remained low until about 2010, when a number of smaller, more affordable electric cars from makes such as Mitsubishi and Nissan came to market, and improved technology represented large electric cars began to offer both the space and range to establish them a sensible choice for families.

Bu said the incentives were so significant that” many people say they’ve bought the most expensive car they’ve ever had when they purchase electrical- Teslas, Jaguars, that kind of model- simply because they’ve calculated what kind of saving they’re going to be clear over the coming years, and feel it forms sense “.

That has led to accusations that Norway’s encouragement of electric vehicles amounts to little more than tax sections for the rich, or a cut-price second vehicle. Many Norwegians on lower incomes can only dream of owning an electric car, and three out of four automobile acquires are on the secondhand market.

Bu- whose organisation represents purchasers rather than farmers- spurned this, is considered that” we have to change the cars we drive, and the only way to do that is to change the new gondolas. We can’t vary used ones “. EVs will soon make up 10% of Norway’s fare fleet, she said, and are slowly coming on to the used market.

She said she was confident for the future of electrical vehicles, even in countries without a big renewable strength sector, and studies show that EVs lope on dominance generated from fossil fuel are responsible for roughly the same level of overall CO 2 radiations as petrol cars.

” As a society, we clearly have to do two things ,” she said.” Produce more renewables and concoctions- like automobiles- that can run on it ,” she said.” We is therefore necessary to do both, as swiftly as possible. We can’t has been dragging on until we’re produce 100% renewable energy .”

Electric automobiles are” never going to be truly environmentally friendly”, Bu said.” The central question is representing the batteries. We need clean artillery farmers in Europe. But look, we need transport. We need automobiles and vans, especially outside our metropolis. And for us, electrical provides answers .”

This legend is a part of Covering Climate Now’s week of coverage focused on Climate Solutions, to tag the 50 th anniversary of Earth Day. The Guardian is the lead partner in Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration committed to strengthening coverage of the climate narrative .

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