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The future today 
Peter Schmidt | Editor

Published: Wed, 05th July 2017 13:49:18 GMT

Open quote signNever in recent European history has tiny Norway attracted more interest and attention than today, and the reasons are all too easily spotted. This June a record 42.2 per cent of the new cars sold in Norway were sold with an electric plug. Closely linked - only this morning Volvo said that from 2019 all its new cars will also feature an electric motor.

Last month, Norway’s highly taxed consumers have bought more zero-emission cars than during any other month on record. 

That’s 3,946 units, which comfortably beats the total sold during any other month. 

For market observers June’s developments are particularly significant. 

High tax Norway, thanks to the tax-free nature of electric cars, plus sweetheart user benefits, already has by a huge margin the world’s highest electric car sales share. 

That’s a sky-high 17 per cent in the five months to May this year. 

As a like-for-like comparison, this compares with a puny 1.2 per cent in France, 0.6 per cent in both Germany and the UK and 0.8 per cent for the entire West European car sales region. 

Astonishing, last month electric cars such as BMW’s i3, excluding plug-in-hybrids, already accounted for 27.7 per cent of all the new cars sold in Norway in June. This beats June’s 25.2% diesel car sales share. 

But that’s not all. Last month, Norway’s new car buyers also bought a further 2,063 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), thus elevating June sales of all plug-ins (BEVs & PHEVs) to a bumper 6,009 sold units. 

It means that plug-ins alone (BEV & PHEV) were already responsible for more than four-in-ten of the new cars sold in trailblazing Norway this June. 

These latest car buying trends in high-subsidy Norway support the view that before long plug-ins alone will likely outsell the combined number of conventionally fuelled petrol and diesel cars sold in Norway. 

With a plug-in share of 42.2 per cent this June, that development could turn into reality as early as next year. 

A crucial factor, judged from latest political rumblings in Norway, today’s huge electric car incentives will likely be kept until 2020. 

But a sudden rethink, say an end to the free use of toll-roads for electric cars for example, could change all that overnight. 

This was illustrated only recently in neighbouring Denmark. 

Rumours abound that a change in government could conceivably slow, but not kill, Norway’s hitherto pioneering surge to alternative automotive mobility. 

Looked at in isolation, Norway’s electric car story is the stuff dreams are made of. 

At least for deep-green idealistic environmentalists. 

However, the idea that before long, say 2020 or even 2025 Norwegian type take-up rates could be the norm in most European markets such as France, Germany, the UK or Italy, remains far-fetched and simplistic. 

That’s simply because Norway’s electric car model, which works in high-tax Norway, cannot be repeated in other main markets. 

That’s simply because it is prohibitively expensive and on balance benefits those the most who can probably most afford to purchase or lease a totally unsubsidised electric car in the first place. 

Critics say that in Norway most electric cars are bought chiefly by already well-heeled, hard-nosed buyers for economic rather than environmental reasons. 

Admittedly broad-brush, if adopted in say France or Germany, the skewed nature of Norwegian-type electric car subsidies and above all, highly attractive user benefits are such that Joe Public would effectively subsidise ‘must-have’ electric toys on wheels for those with already larger than average wallets. 

Few, if any of today’s governments would probably get parliamentary support for a Norway-type move. Yes, on the face of it Norway illustrates the future today, but in the majority of European markets that unsubsidised electric future will probably not turn to reality until 2030 at best.
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