The electric car revolution

From Norway to China: how global leaders boost the electric car

Awareness, industry incentives, purchase subsidies, tax breaks, penalties and prohibitions for contaminant vehicles... Governments combine the carrot and stick approach to drive implantation of the electric vehicle. Two nations, Norway and China, stand head and shoulders above the rest in developing electric mobility and both have bet up to now on acting as "good cop" with significant measures to support and electrify transport.

Norway: top of its class

Norway is the number one oil producer in Europe and the fifteenth largest in the world. Oil and gas represent virtually a quarter of its Gross Domestic Product (GDB) but, paradoxically, Norway comes top of the class in terms of implantation of the electric car.

No country in the world has so many electric vehicles as Norway. In 2017, one in two cars sold in the country was electric or hybrid; almost one in five was fully electric, emissions free and also free of dependence on crude oil.

Electric cars sold in Norway in September 2018: A total of 45% of the 10,620 cars sold in Norway were electric. If hybrids are added, the percentage attained 60%. Nonetheless, some challenges still remain to be overcome so that most of the country's cars are zero emissions. Electric and hybrids 60%, Combustion 40%

 

The journey has been long but appears unstoppable. In 1987, the joint founder of the Norwegian NGO Bellona used an extension lead through his office window to plug in the electric cuatro latas (four tin cans) he had imported from Sweden; a 2-seater "hotrod" with 45 kilometres autonomy that got him fined more than once and which took him three years to legalise. Years later, he recruited the singer from the pop group A-HA, a musical phenomenon in Norway and most of Europe in the 1980s, to defend the electric car with a tour around the country during which they refused to pay toll fees.

The seed of electrical mobility was planted. However, watering came in the form of generous subsidies. Norwegian authorities were soon aware that awareness without incentives would not get them far. Today, electric cars in Norway are exempt of VAT and registration tax. They can be driven in the bus lane and parked free of charge. They do not pay toll fees and they have free access to all state ferries. A generous package of subsidies from which all buyers will benefit, including those buying luxury models.

The variation in Tesla sales in the Nordic country serves as an example: from 13 units sold in 2009 to 8.460 in 2017, according to data from the website Statista, so many that the US firm is having problems dealing with its maintenance and supplying exclusive components for these luxury vehicles.

Fleet of electric vehicles in Norway

 

This trail of subsidies has led to an increase from 680 electric cars in 2000 to over 120,000, and the aim is to sell only electric cars by 2025. Last September closed with a new record. A total of 45% of the 10,620 cars sold in Norway were electric.

If hybrids are added, the percentage attained 60%. Nonetheless some challenges still remain to be overcome so that most of the country's cars are zero emissions. "Electrification of the transport sector must be backed by sufficient load infrastructure and loaders are not being deployed fast enough. Today, we have approximately 1.600 fast electric car loaders in Norway (excluding the Tesla superloaders) and we need 10,000 to 12,000 by 2030", states Christina Lanssen, from the NGO Bellona, who suggests the importance of maintaining incentives in the future to attain a higher penetration of electric cars.

China: the race to turn into the Detroit of electric cars

Another reference in the expansion of the electric car is China. In no country in the world are so many electric cars sold as in the Asian giant. In fact, in China last year more electric cars were sold than in the rest of the countries put together and twice that in the United States, according to the report Global EV Outlook 2018 of the OECD and the International Energy Agency.

In the case of China, expansion of the electric car has a decidedly industrial component. China has decided to bet strongly on production of the electric car and its components, from lithium batteries to engines.

Electric cars produced in the world in 2016: In 2016, 43% of electric cars manufactured all over the world came from Chinese factories and one in four lithium batteries also came from the Asian giant. Rest of the world 57%, China 43%

 

According to a report from the consultancy McKinsey, in 2016, a total of 43% of electric cars manufactured all over the world came from Chinese factories and one in four lithium batteries also came from the Asian giant. BAIC, BYD, Geely, Nio, Byton, Kandi, Zhidou may all be brands still unknown to many Spanish drivers but they are king brands in their home country. They have in their reach the largest market in the world and in many cases they are controlled by the Government, which backs this industry with a twofold aim: economic and environmental.

The subsidies have been aimed both at manufacturers and buyers and quality is starting to prevail over quantity: the more advanced and efficient the model the more the subsidies. Some information that came out this summer suggested that Chinese authorities could even be contemplating reducing incentives but maintaining the aim of attaining 7 million electric cars by 2025.

Stock of electric passenger cars in the most important regions and the top ten of EVI countries.

 

Nonetheless, although the generous subsidies and incentives are behind these two success stories in the expansion of the electric vehicle, prohibitions turned into the other cornerstone of policies to boost sustainable mobility.

Norway is also the most ambitious country when putting a stop date on the sale of petrol and diesel cars (2025). But it is not the only one: France and the United Kingdom have set the deadline of 2040, the same date the Spanish Government wants to lay down. Ireland, Holland and Slovenia will all bid farewell to registering combustion engine vehicles in 2030.

More than 1 million electric cars sold in the world in 2017 More than 3 million electric cars in circulation in 2017

 

For their part, large cities will begin to veto access to city centres for contaminant vehicles. This is the case of Madrid, Oslo, Paris, or London, among many others. In the French capital, cars manufactured before 1997 are prohibited from driving in the centre in the week.

In London, diesel vehicles have to pay a daily surcharge of 11.5 pounds to enter some central areas at rush hour and the aim is to prohibit their circulation in 2020. In Spain, the Government has announced a stable incentives plan to buy an electric car. That’s the carrot incentive. The stick will be for diesel car drivers, who will finance those buying an electric car with an extra fuel tax charge on the subsidies.

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