The Best Electric Vehicle Market in the World

BMW i3 Miles Willis/Getty Images
Miles Willis/Getty Images

The limitations of electric vehicles are all too familiar to U.S. auto consumers. Their range isn’t enough to be practical for most drivers and the ones that are decent cost the equivalent of high-end luxury cars. But what if they were more affordable than gasoline cars and included benefits that kept down maintenance? In a nutshell, this approach is the route Norway took to its bustling electric car market, which make up 22% of new automobile sales, according to the New York Times.

Norway has held its spot atop the EV sales leaderboard for some time, but the Times report shed light on how the incentives influence auto purchases for the average consumer. Comparing the cost of two Volkswagen Golf variants, the diesel model ran closer to $40,000 while the e-Golf with 82 miles of range ran consumers the equivalent of $31,000.

The sticker price only begins to tell the story of electric vehicle incentives in Norway. Ferry ride expenses, parking fees, and pricey bridge and tunnel tolls are waived for EV drivers while they remain in place for gasoline and diesel car drivers. Meanwhile, those who want to fill up the tank end up paying over $6 per gallon for gasoline.

By the time you add up the list of incentives, EV buyers could enjoy over $18,000 in breaks over a five-year period, though most kick in at the time of purchase, according to Norwegian Electric Vehicles Association data. Basing it on the cost of a popular model like the Nissan Leaf, it would be the equivalent of buying the top-selling EV for $14,000 and then being able to forget tolls and parking fees for the coming years.

We’s guess Leaf sales would be exploding in the U.S. with these terms.


Those conditions are not in place in the U.S, and despite the generous incentives available in Colorado and a few other states, many buyers depend on the federal tax credit of $7,500 for the entirety of their breaks. Without attractive terms that make EVs less expensive than their gas counterparts, American consumers have considered it a no-brainer to stick with high-emissions vehicles.

Norway’s officials set ambitious goals for air quality and smog levels, so the government considers the investment worth it for the time being. That doesn’t stop regional officials from complaining about toll revenues dropping when it’s high electric car traffic and other issues. (For some reason, the Norwegian equivalent of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie comes to mind here.)

Anyone considering the value of these incentives also has to consider the investment in public health and quality of life. With lower emissions coming from electric vehicles, state-sponsored health programs can expect a lighter burden when treating respiratory illness in the coming decades.

Incentives don’t have to stay in place forever to make this system work, either. By 2020, the technology for affordable EVs should be widely available. By then, countries with a head start on charging infrastructure and other details can shift their investment to driving the market forward in other ways. Maybe the rest of the world will wait for Norway to lead on that front, too.

Source: The New York Times

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