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Norway: The Friendliest Place In The World For Electric Cars

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Tesla Roadster, Reva i, & Ford Th!nk electric cars parked at charging station in Oslo, Norway

Tesla Roadster, Reva i, & Ford Th!nk electric cars parked at charging station in Oslo, Norway

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Just last week, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] opened its first Supercharger fast-charge stations outside the U.S.--in the Scandinavian country of Norway.

With just six stations and 46 charging points, 90 percent of Norwegians live within 200 miles of a Supercharger--well within the 265-mile EPA range of a Model S sedan. The first one of those outside the U.S. was sold in Norway too--the country has taken electric cars to its heart.

But how long will Norway's electric car momentum last? While the popularity of electric cars is only set to increase over the coming decades--in August, electric cars took a full six percent of the market's sales in Norway, two thirds of which were Nissan's Leaf--it's less clear whether Norway's heavily incentive-driven methods are sustainable long term.

Quartz links this to Tesla's focus on the country. Unsurprisingly, the car's range is a large factor in why Tesla expects to do well there--it's in a market of one as far as zero-emission, long-distance cars go.

That electric cars are also subject to myriad tax exemptions, incentives and benefits is another factor. The Model S's $73,000 price tag doesn't make it a cheap car, but compared to vehicles with like-for-like performance and features--cars which are subject to the country's heavy sales tax, up to 50%--it looks like a bit of a bargain.

Electric cars also get free parking, free charging and can use bus lanes. There are no road tolls, no tunnel tolls, and with gasoline at twice the price it is in the U.S, charging is proportionately cheaper too. As we've examined before, all these savings add up to over $8,000 per year, per vehicle. For a car like the Model S, it could be more, but it's certainly one reason the Nissan Leaf is doing so well there.

First 2013 Tesla Model S delivered in Europe (Photo: @TeslaMotors on Twitter)

First 2013 Tesla Model S delivered in Europe (Photo: @TeslaMotors on Twitter)

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Critics say that electric cars aren't quite as green as they're made out to be in Norway, says Quartz--as Norway's European-linked grid isn't always running on hydroelectric power alone.

Others say that as the country's incentive program applies to electric cars only and not other greener vehicles--like hybrids--those who genuinely can't afford an electric car have no incentive to swap their older, dirtier vehicles for something newer and cleaner. There's also the risk that suburban dwellers who might have previously chosen public transport to commute opt for an electric car instead, adding to energy demands and increasing congestion.

Ironically, if bus use declines significantly, Norway's bus lanes could become redundant, and electric cars may be forced to use regular congested lanes with everyone else. Such a scenario isn't imminent, but it's one example of the problems associated with its heavy incentive program.

Of course, there will come a crossover point where electric cars can survive without incentives--but companies like Tesla and Nissan are wisely making hay while the sun shines.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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