World will follow Norway's lead on electric cars, minister says


Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

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When it comes to electric-car adoption, Norway is unique.

Electric cars make up a larger share of new-car sales in the Scandinavian country than anywhere, thanks to a very particular combination of factors.

On average, most Norwegians drive short distances, meaning the relatively short ranges of the first crop of modern electric cars were never as much of an issue there as in other countries.

DON'T MISS: World's largest fast-charging site opens in Norway: 28 electric cars can charge, all standards included

Norway's government has also aggressively promoted electric cars, building up charging infrastructure and offering incentives and perks, including free public parking and EV access to bus lanes.

These factors have made Norway the friendliest place for electric cars in the world, but one official believes other countries may soon catch up.

The rest of the world will inevitably follow Norway's lead in electric cars, Christina Bu—secretary general of the influential Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association—said in an interview conducted as part of a cooperative effort with ECOHZ, a company that manages distribution of renewable energy.

Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

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Bu noted that the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association has a greater ability to influence policy in its home country than similar groups in other countries.

That's because non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have a strong voice in Norway's government.

This ability to work directly with the government has proven valuable for things like expanding charging infrastructure, Bu said.

ALSO SEE: What can we learn from electric-car owners in Norway (more than 100K of them)?

Even without this arrangement, though, electric-car adoption in other countries could soon reach levels similar to Norway, she said.

She believes the auto industry is on the verge of a "paradigm shift" in which electric cars "will become so technologically advanced that they will outperform" gasoline and diesel cars.

That will be brought about by the arrival of 200-mile electric cars at mainstream prices, Bu said.

Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

Electric-car rally in Geiranger, Norway [Image: Norsk elbilforening via Flickr]

Enlarge Photo

She explained that the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association regularly hosts meetings with representatives of established automakers.

These companies must adapt to a future where electric cars represent the majority of global new-car sales, or risk going the way of camera-film maker Kodak, Bu declared.

MORE: Norway's Goal: All New Cars Will Be Emission-Free By 2025 To Cut Carbon (Aug 2015)

Many automakers are planning more electric cars in response to stricter global emissions standards, but consumer demand may soon be an equally important factor, Bu believes.

The results of the association's most recent annual member survey showed that, when asked to pick one reason for buying an electric car, most people chose "economic concerns."

DC fast-charging site in Nebbenes, Norway [photo: Norsk elbilforening]

DC fast-charging site in Nebbenes, Norway [photo: Norsk elbilforening]

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Fuel savings and low maintenance costs can be just as attractive as low carbon emissions, it seems.

While it's not inconceivable that interest in electric cars—among both policymakers and consumers—will increase, other countries may take a while to match Norway's level of enthusiasm.

Government officials have proposed an all-out ban on sales of new internal-combustion cars within Norway's borders, beginning in 2025.

The Netherlands later followed Norway's lead, and there's even been a call for a similar rule by 2030 in Germany, the heart of the European car industry.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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