On Europe’s northern margins, lightly populated Norway has been at the cutting edge of electromobility for years, even decades now.
The capital of Oslo, like most of Norway’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 centers; 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 percent of the nation’s newly registered passenger cars.
Not resting on its laurels, 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 e-mobility, the Netherlands, intends to phase out all fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 2025.
Elon Musk, CEO of the U.S. electric car company Tesla Motors, responded to Norway’s declared 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 5 million EVs by 2020.
The U.S. ranks third globally, with fewer than 500,000 EVs.
But electric vehicle momentum is picking up in the U.S., 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 2 million electric and hybrid passenger cars were on the road worldwide — about 0.2 percent of the global fleet; in Europe, significantly less than 1 percent 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.