Norway is leading Europe in the switch to electric-powered cars, with a record 8,034 new emission-free vehicles in March or 55.8 per cent of all new car registrations during the month.
Finland, which has a similar population to Norway, registered 3,055 electric cars last year.
Oil-rich Norway has pushed electric-car use by imposing strict pollution limits and saying all new cars sold by 2025 must be emission-free.
Thousands of Norwegians are on waiting lists for electric cars pointing to the success of Oslo’s policies.
“The other part is the carrot: the subsidies,” said Yoann Le Petit of the Transport and Environment department in Oslo.
“When you buy an electric vehicle you don’t pay the registration tax or VAT. There are in-use benefits too. In Norway there are many toll roads and you don’t pay these. You can also have free parking.
“There are a whole set of incentives that will drive you towards this alternative. It’s a rational option for the consumer to buy electric.”
Norwegian car sales last year were topped by the electric or hybrid Volkswagen Golf , BMWi3, Toyota Rav4 and Tesla Model X.
Norway has the highest number of electric cars per capita in the world and one out of every five new cars sold is electric, and more than 50 per cent of new cars sold last year were electric or plug-in hybrids.
Elsewhere the high prices of electric cars, limited ranges between recharging and prolonged charging times discourage drivers to make the switch.
A report by the European Environment Agency said there was still serious underinvestment in electric vehicle recharging infrastructure across the European Union, with only one in three EU member states providing incentives.
“We view Norway as a role model for how electric mobility can be promoted through smart incentives,” a spokesman at BMW’s Munich headquarters said. “The situation would probably be different if these incentives were dropped.”
Norwegian sales of diesels fell most last year, to 23 per cent from 31 per cent in 2016. Some Norwegian regions are charging higher tolls for diesel cars than for petrol models.
Norway’s electric car policies are largely funded by high revenues from oil and gas production, which might be hard to replicate elsewhere.
Le Petit said studies had found electric vehicles were more environmentally friendly than their conventional counterparts but concerns remained.
“The challenge is to make sure your electricity comes from renewables and to ensure that the components — such as the batteries — are sourced in an environmentally and sustainable way,” Le Petit said.
“Recycling is also important. Once you have all these batteries on the market there will be a business case to recycle them and keep the materials within the EU [or Norway].”
Norway’s terrain does not lend itself to electric vehicles. Picture credit: Wikimedia