Norway’s electric car odyssey: The evolution of electric cars in Oslo and why the world is rethinking its automotive future.

So Norway, the supposed paradise for electric car enthusiasts, is letting down its obsession with electric cars. Electric cars are cool, sure, but as it turns out, they can’t be a magic cure for climate change. Norway is like Elon Musk when it comes to electric cars: 87% of new cars are all-electric. That’s far […]

So Norway, the supposed paradise for electric car enthusiasts, is letting down its obsession with electric cars. Electric cars are cool, sure, but as it turns out, they can’t be a magic cure for climate change. Norway is like Elon Musk when it comes to electric cars: 87% of new cars are all-electric. That’s far more than the EU (13%) and the US (7%) combined. But, surprise, surprise, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

I’ve been writing about transportation for a long time, and this whole story of Norway’s love affair with electric cars has piqued my curiosity. Is this the holy grail of climate strategies, or are we just drinking too many electric cars? So I headed across the pond to see what all the hype was about. Turns out that the Norwegian craze for electric cars has indeed reduced emissions, but some important social goals have been compromised. Those mind-boggling subsidies for electric cars? They mostly went into the pockets of the well-off, and the parade of equality was a bit deflated.

And wait – Norway’s electric car boom has put a crimp in the city’s plans to phase out cars and allow people to get around on bikes or switch to transit. That is, something that actually reduces emissions and makes city life less car-dependent. Despite all the cheers from abroad, the Norwegian government is now scrapping some of these “electric handouts” to balance things out.

“Countries should encourage the development of electric cars without turning them into a rich people’s holiday and making everyone auto-dependent,” says Bjørne Grimsrud, a transportation guru. But Norway skipped the idea, as did the U.S., where transportation emits the most greenhouse gases. Uncle Sam is waving enticing rebates for electric cars, but hasn’t allocated a dime to greener options like e-bikes, or even a lifeline for struggling public transportation.

Of course, moving away from gasoline trucks is essential, and Norway is close to making it happen. But even the most optimistic projections for electric vehicles won’t stop global temperatures from rising by 2 degrees Celsius. It’s not just a matter of swapping a gasoline-powered car for an electric one, but of giving up driving altogether.

Norway, a trendsetter in all things electric, offers a whole buffet of lessons for countries looking to make their driving more eco-friendly. But not all lessons are a hooray. Norway’s love affair with electric cars? There’s a twist to it.

Immersing ourselves in the atmosphere of Norway’s fascination with electric cars is like entering an alternate universe. Imagine: a country that has no automobile industry of its own and exports mostly fossil fuels suddenly becomes the king of electric cars. History lesson: Norway used to be a rural country, but after the 1960s, people moved to the cities and cars became a global craze. The car craze changed the face of the country and public transportation took a back seat.

In the 1990s, cars in Norway began to sound like, “We are VIPs here!”. Electric car startups, Buddy and Think, started the electric car dream, and the government provided some incentives to make it more palatable. They even exempted electric cars from high car taxes. Now Norway leads the electric car rankings, with 83% of new cars being electric.

But here’s the plot twist – all that glitters is not green. The electric car incentives that were supposed to be the hero of the story ended up being the enablers of the rich, leaving less privileged people in the dust. Statistics even show that the chances of Norwegian households buying an EV increase with every extra dollar in their bank account. So much for a “green revolution” for everyone.

And the cities? Blessed are their hearts, they want less cars and more good things like transportation, bicycles and walking. Oslo, a dream city, has since 2016 removed over 4,000 parking spaces, made some bike lanes and even adjusted traffic to make the streets safer. The result? In 2019, not a single pedestrian or bicyclist hit a sidewalk as a result of an accident. Now that’s a win!

But that’s where the incentives for electric cars came in. They put the brakes on transit dreams and squeezed funds for transit improvements. Road tolls, which had been transit’s cash cow, began to dry up as more and more Norwegians got around in their electric chariots. Even major projects like Oslo’s new metro line felt the pressure. Øyvind Trødal, head of the city council, summed it up this way, “We subsidize electric cars, but we don’t have money for major transit projects.”

The statesmen, sticking to their pro-EV anthem, conveniently left out the part about encouraging driving. No discounts for EV enthusiasts, and public transit is neglected. Even the new 12-year National Transport Plan forgets to put the brakes on car travel.

As Norway turns the pages of its history on electric vehicles, it has made some edits. In 2017, they imposed parking, toll and ferry fees on EV owners. This year, only the first $45k for a new car is tax-free, and heavy vehicles pay for their weight. In their opinion, this is being done to level the playing field.

Bjørne Grimsrud, director of TØI’s Transportation Research Center, hopes that Norway’s next 12-year transportation plan will aim to reduce the total number of car trips. Widen roads less, focus more on transit. A national goal to reduce transportation emissions will be a compass pointing to public transportation and bicycles, not endless road building.

So what are the conclusions for other countries studying Norway’s green book? First, don’t turn incentivizing the use of electric cars into a playground for the rich. Limit prices, limit the number of EV purchases, and let everyone join the green party. And for the sake of cleaner air, don’t let electric cars absorb money earmarked for public transportation. Lessons from Norway is a mix of ups and downs, a story of good intentions that didn’t quite go according to plan.

At a time when the rest of the world is trying to get a grip, Norway’s electric car story is a reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The path to sustainability is somewhat rocky, and Norway is still just finding its way. So as we write our own chapters in a book about the transition to clean technology, let’s not miss the fine print in Norway’s love letter to electric cars – a story of unexpected twists and turns and a constant dance between dream and reality.


How did Norway become a leader in electric vehicle adoption?

Norway has become a leader in electric vehicle (EV) adoption thanks to generous government incentives. With 87% of new car sales now fully electric, the country is ahead of the European Union (13%) and the United States (7%).

What is the percentage of new car sales in Norway?

An impressive 87% of new car sales in Norway are all-electric, demonstrating the country’s huge commitment to EV adoption.

What are the main reasons for Norway to actively adopt electric vehicles?

Norway is actively adopting electric vehicles due to strong government incentives, enabling the country to become a global leader in the fight against climate change through the widespread adoption of EVs.

What has been the impact of Norway’s electric vehicle incentives on income inequality?

Electric vehicle incentives have led to significant emission reductions, but have also exacerbated income inequality. Affluent residents with large subsidies contribute to the wealth gap.

What challenges have Norwegian cities faced with the electric vehicle boom?

Norwegian cities are struggling with the unintended consequences of the electric car boom. The influx of electric vehicles is hampering efforts to move away from car dependence by impacting public transportation, urban planning, and community goals.

How is the government addressing the negative consequences of the aggressive promotion of electric vehicles?

In response to the negative effects of the rampant promotion of electric vehicles, the Norwegian government has begun to remove some electrification subsidies. This is aimed at mitigating the negative impact on income inequality and urban mobility strategies.

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