If you want to see the best electric vehicle market on earth, look no further than Norway. Through a combination of purchase incentives, free parking, and disincentives for fossil-fuel vehicles, the Scandinavian country had managed to boost plug-in adoption to 22% of its auto market by fall 2015.
Turns out we hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. According to InsideEVs, electric car sales reached an eye-popping 33.5% of Norway’s total market in March. About one in three auto consumers bought cars with a plug.
While the EV market share is the stuff records are made of, Norway’s sales volume is not going to impress anyone. InsideEVs reports country-wide sales at 13,875 with plug-in vehicles accounting for 4,646 of that number. Plug-in hybrids, which gained 468% over the previous March, were the prime movers in the year-over-year jump for registrations (2,051). Pure EV volume (2,595) was down from a year ago.
A plug-in hybrid topped the model list as well. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a plug-in SUV that remains forbidden fruit to U.S. consumers, led the pack with 686 sales, followed by the all-electric Nissan Leaf (676) and Volkswagen e-Golf (540). The Golf GTE, another plug-in model unavailable in America, had a great month of its own with 526 sales. VW e-Golf remains the overall leader for 2016 in Norway with 1,765 sales through March.
American drivers have access to few of the incentives available to Norwegian plug-in drivers. Free parking and tolls may entice drivers as much as rebates on the purchase price. On the gasoline car side, high prices at the pump are enough to get consumers seeing green.
Gas prices routinely top $6 per gallon in Norway due to taxes imposed by the government. Likewise, vehicles running on gasoline with EV equivalents (e.g., Volkswagen Golf) feature much higher purchase prices than their electric counterparts. If 80 miles or so of range is enough for you during a day’s commute (as it is for Americans), then your cheapest option is an EV in Norway.
In recent years, the Norwegian government has been aggressive in implementing EV incentives in the effort to improve air quality. Because of the 96% of emissions-free hydroelectric power in the country’s grid, most drivers operate their cars without having any impact whatsoever on the air. Officials consider the money spent on incentives a good long-term investment in public health.
Norway and the U.S. could hardly be more different. What we have in common are issues with greenhouse gas emissions, premature deaths attributed to poor air quality, and lots of people driving. The U.S. government may choose to withhold more substantial incentives for electric car drivers, but studies show it will pay in other ways. It’s currently the American way. Anyone who’d like a different model should vote appropriately in November.
Connect with Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY