Power to the EV: Norway spearheads Europe’s electric vehicle surge

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Power to the EV: Norway spearheads Europe’s electric vehicle surge


Category: Automobile / Transport

With ambitious emissions-reduction targets, support from government and the car industry, electromobility is on the verge of major expansion in Europe, reports Yale Environment 360.

Oslo, Norway’s capital, like most of the Scandinavian country’s cities and towns, boasts bus-lane access for electric vehicles (EVs), recharging stations aplenty, privileged parking, and toll-free travel for electric cars. The initiative began in the 1990s as an effort to cut pollution, congestion, and noise in urban centres; now its primary rationale is combating climate change. Today, Norway has the highest per capita number of all-electric [battery only] cars in the world: more than 100,000 in a country of 5.2 million people. Last year, EVs constituted nearly 40% of the nation’s newly registered passenger cars.

And the Norwegian experiment shows every sign of accelerating. Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour. The country, joined by Europe’s No 2 in electromobility, the Netherlands, intends to phase out all fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 2025. Elon Musk, CEO of the US electric car company Tesla Motors, responded to Norway’s goal by tweeting: “What an amazingly awesome country. You guys rock!”

Norway is the clear electric vehicle pacesetter in Europe, which now has about 500,000 electric vehicles. China leads the world in EV usage, with about 600,000 all-electric vehicles on its roads and an ambitious plan to deploy 5m EVs by 2020. The US ranks third globally, with fewer than 500,000 EVs. But electric vehicle momentum is picking up in the US, as evidenced by the 400,000 people who have paid $1,000 to be on the waiting list for Tesla’s $35,000 Model 3 car.

The trailblazing achievements of the Norwegians and the Dutch are just one reason that many experts see 2017 as a crucial breakout year for electric mobility in Europe and beyond. Experts acknowledge that in the past the numbers have never quite lived up to the hype around EVs or other alternative transportation technologies. Indeed, in 2016 only 2m electric and hybrid passenger cars were on the road worldwide – about 0.2% of the global fleet; in Europe, significantly less than 1% of new car registrations are battery-electric vehicles (as opposed to hybrid cars). And key questions still loom, such as whether there will be sufficient renewable energy supplies to power vast new fleets of EVs. If electric vehicles are charged with fossil fuel-generated electricity, the result is more, not fewer, greenhouse gas emissions.

Nevertheless, because of rapid technological advances and strong government support for EVs in Europe and China, experts maintain that a new era in electromobility is dawning – and that this time there’s more to the prediction than industry optimism.

“We’re convinced that Europe and other continents, too, are now turning the corner on e-mobility,” says Lars Mönch of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency. “It’s the aim of all big cities worldwide to ambitiously tackle the climate and urban congestion issues that they all face.” Referring to the provisions of the Paris agreement on climate change, in which nations pledged emissions cuts aimed at holding temperature increases below 2C, Mönch added, “There are goals now for the transportation sector that can only be met with alternative forms of mobility.”

Norway illustrates that with incentives that eliminate the price advantage of conventional gas-burning vehicles, many people will go for the electric option. “It works, absolutely,” says Martin Norman of Greenpeace Norway, who has driven an EV since 2004. “It’s clearly feasible, especially in urban areas. We’ve found that the range of EVs is enough for most of what people need.” And since 98 % of Norway’s electricity comes from hydropower, the country’s burgeoning EV fleet leaves almost no carbon footprint.

Many European experts and industry representatives see the Norwegian model – minus the whopping subsidies – as a sign of where European electromobility is heading. Magdalena Jozwicka of the European Environment Agency, a Copenhagen-based EU body, says the EU looks to non-EU member Norway for inspiration. Even though it’s highly subsidised, e-mobility in Norway has caught fire on account of its own virtues, she says, noting its contribution to air quality, its quiet, and the many perks that e-cars enjoy.

“People aren’t just using them as hobby cars for city shopping anymore,” she says. “They’re switching to full e-mobility because it’s possible now.”

Thanks to its lucrative offshore oil and natural gas business, Norway can afford to promote e-mobility with generous incentives, including the considerable bonus of exemption from a 25% sales tax. Norway’s access to abundant and cheap zero-emission hydroelectric power means it can even offer e-car owners free power charging at public charging stations.

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Source: The Guardian