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Norway Powers Ahead: Over Half of New Car Sales Now Electric or Hybrid

Sales of electric and hybrid cars rose above half of new registrations in Norway in 2017, a record aided by generous subsidies that extended the country’s lead in shifting from fossil-fuel engines, January 2018 data showed.

Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales in 2017 in Norway compared to 40 percent in 2016, the independent Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said. 

“No one else is close” in terms of a national share of electric cars, OFV chief Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen said. “For the first time we have a fossil-fuel market share below 50 percent.” 

Norway exempts new electric cars from almost all taxes and grants perks that can be worth thousands of dollars a year in terms of free or subsidized parking, re-charging and use of toll roads, ferries and tunnels. 

It also generates almost all its electricity from hydropower, so the shift helps to reduce air pollution and potentially the effects of climate change. 

In 2017, the International Energy Agency said Norway was far ahead of other nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, China, France and Britain in electric car sales. 

Norwegian car sales in 2017 were topped by the Volkswagen Golf, BMWi3, Toyota Rav4 and Tesla Model X. The Tesla is pure electric, and others have electric or hybrid versions. 

In many countries, high prices of battery-driven cars, limited ranges between recharging and long charging times discourage buyers. Carmakers say the disadvantages are dwindling over time with new models. 

“We view Norway as a role model for how electric mobility can be promoted through smart incentives,” a spokesman at BMW’s Munich HQ said. “The situation would probably be different if these incentives were dropped.” 

Other “good examples” of policies to spur electric-car demand include Britain, California and the Netherlands, he said. 

In 2017, Norway’s parliament set a nonbinding goal that by 2025 all cars sold should emit no exhaust gas from the onboard source of power. France and Britain plan to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Overall, sales of zero-emissions cars in Norway rose in 2017 to 21 percent from 16 in 2016. 

Norway’s electric car policies are hard to imitate. Norway can be generous because high revenues from oil and gas production have helped it amass the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, worth U.S. $1 trillion. 

Even in Norway, the benefits strain finances. Norway’s 1.3 trillion Norwegian crown budget projects a loss of tax revenues of 3 billion crowns a year because of electric cars.  Reuters

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