Thanks to massive support, Norway is a paradise for e-cars. In the meantime, almost every second new car runs completely or partially with electricity. But the success story also brings problems.
It sounds different when Pierre starts his car: There’s nothing buzzing, instead there’s a little melody. Lamps and digital displays are bright and colorful, and then you go through the city of Oslo.
Pierre has the „EL“ on the license plate, which makes driving in Norway so much easier. In town, electric cars can use bus lanes, even in rush hour, when at least two people are inside. And also the account of the drivers is doing very well. „We pay no VAT and less motor vehicle tax,“ says Pierre. „We park for free and the electricity is free, which donated the city of Oslo.“
Expectations far exceeded
In 2012, Norway, rich in revenue from oil and gas production, launched a comprehensive support program. By the end of 2018, 50,000 electric vehicles should be on the roads, so the hope. But today there are almost 200,000 fully or partially electric cars – mainly from Germany, but also from Japan and the USA. Almost every second new car is a hybrid vehicle or has only one electric motor. By 2025, there should be no more cars with internal combustion engines.
Christina Bu is Secretary General of the Norsk Elbilforening, the association of electric car owners. She was equally enthusiastic about the state funding program and all its privileges. „Norway is the first country in the world that has already passed the early stages of e-mobility,“ she says. „We are currently in an incipient mass market.“
Braked on the bus lane
And that has consequences: not all Norwegians share the enthusiasm of Bu. The criticism of the e-mobility funding program is growing, mainly because of the unexpected huge success and its consequences. It has cost the state so far several 100 million euros. But the sources of this wealth are finite, they say. For a long time, Norway could no longer afford such a massive subsidy.
Others complain that the preference of e-cars makes private transport even more attractive and not the even „greener“ public transport. „The thing has two sides,“ says a bus driver in Oslo. He sees the problem from his own point of view: as someone who has more and more e-cars in „his“ track, and in front of him. „Of course I’m in favor of environmental protection, but how eco-friendly is it if this program also helps slow us down?“
Other infrastructure is also reaching its limits. Especially with the construction of public and private charging stations you will not get along.
Promotion is gradually decreasing
All this has meanwhile arrived „above“. There, the brake is used. „The government has decided to demand half of the vehicle tax since the beginning of this year, and then even the full rate from 2020,“ explains traffic researcher Erik Figenbaum. Also, the access to the bus lanes had already been restricted, because it had become a bit crowded there. „We should be careful that there are not too many electric cars here at some point.“
Not too fast anyway, that could certainly also sign Bu, the electric lobbyist. But basically – and with it the Norwegian government – she stays with the credo: „The era of internal combustion engines is over in the foreseeable future – good that we Norwegians have recognized the signs of time in time.“
After all, e-mobility is not the distant future, says Bu. „E-mobility is happening now – so many new jobs can not only be created by building cars, but also by building and maintaining the infrastructure.“ The Norwegians could not live forever on oil.