Norway’s EV Transition Well Underway – With Few Hitches

May 9, 2023

New York Times:

Norway’s experience suggests that electric vehicles bring benefits without the dire consequences predicted by some critics. There are problems, of course, including unreliable chargers and long waits during periods of high demand. Auto dealers and retailers have had to adapt. The switch has reordered the auto industry, making Tesla the best-selling brand and marginalizing established carmakers like Renault and Fiat.

But the air in Oslo, Norway’s capital, is measurably cleaner. The city is also quieter as noisier gasoline and diesel vehicles are scrapped. Oslo’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 30 percent since 2009, yet there has not been mass unemployment among gas station workers and the electrical grid has not collapsed.

Some lawmakers and corporate executives portray the fight against climate change as requiring grim sacrifice. “With E.V.s, it’s not like that,” said Christina Bu, secretary general of the Norwegian E.V. Association, which represents owners. “It’s actually something that people embrace.”

Norway began promoting electric vehicles in the 1990s to support Think, a homegrown electric vehicle start-up that Ford Motor owned for a few years. Battery-powered vehicles were exempted from value-added and import taxes and from highway tolls.

The government also subsidized the construction of fast charging stations, crucial in a country nearly as big as California with just 5.5 million people. The combination of incentives and ubiquitous charging “took away all the friction factors,” said Jim Rowan, the chief executive of Volvo Cars, based in neighboring Sweden.

The policies put Norway more than a decade ahead of the United States. The Biden administration aims for 50 percent of new-vehicle sales to be electric by 2030, a milestone Norway passed in 2019.

A few feet from a six-lane highway that skirts Oslo’s waterfront, metal pipes jut from the roof of a prefabricated shed. The building measures pollution from the traffic zooming by, a stone’s throw from a bicycle path and a marina.

Levels of nitrogen oxides, byproducts of burning gasoline and diesel that cause smog, asthma and other ailments, have fallen sharply as electric vehicle ownership has risen. “We are on the verge of solving the NOx problem,” said Tobias Wolf, Oslo’s chief engineer for air quality, referring to nitrogen oxides.

But there is still a problem where the rubber meets the road. Oslo’s air has unhealthy levels of microscopic particles generated partly by the abrasion of tires and asphalt. Electric vehicles, which account for about one-third of the registered vehicles in the city but a higher proportion of traffic, may even aggravate that problem.

“They’re really a lot heavier than internal combustion engine cars, and that means that they are causing more abrasion,” said Mr. Wolf, who, like many Oslo residents, prefers to get around by bicycle.

Another persistent problem: Apartment residents say finding a place to plug in their cars remains a challenge. In the basement of an Oslo restaurant recently, local lawmakers and residents gathered to discuss the issue.

Sirin Hellvin Stav, Oslo’s vice mayor for environment and transport, said at the event that the city wants to install more public chargers but also reduce the number of cars by a third to make streets safer and free space for walking and cycling.

“The goal is to cut emissions, which is why E.V.s are so important, but also to make the city better to live in,” Ms. Stav, a member of the Green Party, said in an interview later.

Electric vehicles are part of a broader plan by Oslo to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions to almost zero by 2030. All city buses will be electric by the end of the year.

Oslo is also targeting construction, the source of more than a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions. Contractors bidding on public projects have a better chance of winning if they use equipment that runs on electricity or biofuels.

At a park in a working-class Oslo neighborhood last month, an excavator scooped out earth for a decorative pond. A thick cable connected the excavator to a power source, driving its electric motor. Later, an electric dump truck hauled away the soil.

Normally, the crew would have been required to stop working when the children in a nearby kindergarten napped. But the electric equipment was quiet enough that work could continue. (Children in Norway nap outdoors, weather permitting.)


There are a variety of public charging vendors to choose from in Norway, and therein lies part of the problem: customers find it inconvenient to maintain multiple mobile apps. And widespread system glitches—including limited options for direct payment, poorly designed parking spots, short charging cables, and malfunctioning hardware—frustrate customers and can heighten their anxiety over charger availability. In Norway’s latest annual EV charging survey, half of respondents claimed that fast chargers occasionally do not work Further trying customers’ patience and creating anxiety are Norway’s highly dispersed EV charging system and the relatively low numbers of chargers per site, both of which create queuing and extend wait times. Larger sites with higher concentrations of chargers are needed, rather than smaller sites spread across the country. Addressing this need presents challenges for charging site operators that initially planned to host a few chargers on small sites; they now struggle to install new chargers and to upgrade on-site energy management at larger sites. Nevertheless, Norway’s operators are now correcting course, introducing a range of large, purpose-built EV charging sites in high-use locations, especially along highways.

Analysis has shown that EV charger utilization depends largely on time of day and location of chargers.12 EV charging utilization is hyperlocal. The utilization of a charger located on the same block as a busy coffee shop or movie theater could be markedly different from that of a charger situated two blocks away from these locations. Identifying and securing the most popular sites early on can thus offer competitive advantage, especially in space-constrained urban centers and on highways. And as competition over prime public charging locations intensifies, it becomes increasingly important for operators to own or contract the sites for extended periods. This helps avoid potential non-renewals of contracts due to site owners opting to establish their own charging operations at these locations.

Certain areas may support charging solutions beyond placing chargers at service stations or in front of gyms and hotels. These solutions might include creating large-scale, multipurpose, public e-mobility hubs in the most popular EV charger locations and integrating battery swaps and car sharing with other commercial and residential property uses. Opportunities to create such multiuse stations in Norway are on the rise. These stations’ potential to boost EV adoption, increase driver satisfaction and confidence, and diversify options for investment and public amenities is considerable. Additionally, emerging urban-mobility developments such as autonomous vehicles will give rise to further innovation and investment in charging infrastructure. As new technologies develop, nimble companies with established EV positions will be best situated to adapt to them and gain market advantage.


4 Responses to “Norway’s EV Transition Well Underway – With Few Hitches”

  1. Ten Bears Says:

    I have noticed since buying the eMini that it all really stinks. Stink like tobacco (or coffee) to non-tobacco (or coffee) users. And I notice it more than I used to …

  2. jimbills Says:

    Norway implemented policies about a decade ago that are not likely to happen here. They heavily taxed high emission ICE vehicle sales while virtually eliminating taxes on new EV sales. They heavily invested in charging stations. They set all sorts of requirements and other incentives to boost EV sales. All great stuff, just politically unlikely in the States.

  3. mboli Says:

    I guess one reason this works well for Norway is the country’s electricity generation is mainly hydroelectric.

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