Norway's Electric Bet

Northern lights – Green Aurora borealis over Alesund, Norway
How long can Norway keep its green wave going? Source: Getty

Norway, land of fjords, fish and forests, is bidding diesel farewell as its citizens flock to buy electric cars without even the lure of a subsidy.

While Germany is a trailblazer in sustainability, its Scandinavian neighbor is becoming even greener. Norway is putting electric vehicles onto roads faster than any other country after parties agreed to ban the sale of gas-powered cars by 2025. Now, Oslo has fans including Elon Musk, and governments and industry experts are watching the transition with interest.

Right now, 5 percent of cars on Norway’s roads are electric. That’s 100,000 vehicles, twice as many as total in Germany, where lawmakers acknowledged earlier this year it will be impossible to put 1 million electric cars on the roads by 2020.

For drivers, the changeover is proving easier than expected. “I never would have thought I’d adjust so well,” said Oslo taxi driver Magne Skorven, who spent his working life behind the wheel of a Mercedes E Class and now drives a Nissan Leaf, an electric hatchback. His customers like the quiet ride, and charging the battery is no big deal, thanks to a daily trip to a rapid-charging station.

Norway doesn’t provide incentives like Germany’s buyer subsidies but instead slaps an 85 percent tax on cars with conventional engines, making a BMW 3 Series as costly as a Tesla Model S. This made the Nissan Leaf Norway’s best-selling car last year. There are perks, though: Electric cars can park free of charge, use bus lanes and are exempt from highway tolls.

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