Little Scandinavian Norway is thousands of miles from the Middle East or the oil fields of Texas, yet through the rich magic of the North Sea, it’s the world’s 15th largest oil producer. The thing is, the Norwegian government doesn’t really want its citizens to guzzle its crude; instead, Norway is using that inky black wealth to subsidize electric cars.
Norway is making electric cars cheap, at least for a country with the highest average incomes in the world. To encourage its vikings to aid nature via their better natures, the government is nixing the 25-percent tax and heavy registration fee that applies to regular car purchases. And those are just the initial savings: Norway is also waiving all highway tolls and ferry fees, plus providing free, hydro-sourced electricity at government-installed charging stations countrywide. It’s like a real-world algebra problem—initial savings (x) plus annual savings (y)—whose solution is, in the parlance of local access mattress advertisements everywhere, savings, savings, savings. At most, Norwegian citizens can get almost $18,000 off cars like the Tesla Model S.
In some ways, Norway is the perfect test bed for electric cars: progressive politics, environmentally friendly population, limited size and an $875 billion sovereign wealth fund. Most EVs can go no more than 200 miles on a charge; Norway’s compact geography (at least the populated portions thereof) and plentiful charge stations mitigate that issue. Still, it’s a notoriously cold country, and low temperatures are hard on lithium-ion batteries.
Today, with almost 70,000 all-electric cars on the road (plus some hybrids), Norway is beginning to phase out the subsidies that pushes cars like the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf and Volkswagen eGolf to such sales. While the country’s environmental minister is aiming for a 100-percent electric—and emissions-free—Norwegian fleet, a 22-percent market share after only a few years is nothing to shake an Arctic Char at. Especially in light of recent revelations about Volkswagen’s dirty diesel secret, drivers in Norway and worldwide might turn their eyes to electrons.
Here in the U.S., federal programs and state subsidies mean smaller savings, often between $2,000 and $7,500 per car, on plug-in electric cars. The country has around 373,000 EVs on the road—far more than Norway. However, more than 13 percent of Norwegians’ new-car purchases skew electric; here, that number is just over .6 percent. We’re huge and harbor a national love of V8s, but then again, our national catchphrase is “money talks.” Were Uncle Sam to start handing out free charging and parking, we’d expect that percentage to grow at a downright algebraic clip.