Norway’s zero emission car scheme a global model

Norway is the world leader of the electric car market. Electric cars, compared to conventional cars, which pose health risks due to pollutants they exhaust, emit no chemicals. Zero emission vehicles accounted for 30% of all new cars purchased in Norway in 2018 as stated in a recent report by the Norwegian Embassy ([NE] 2019). Such statistics owe their success to incentives provided to buyers of low emission cars, and punishments for those using gas or diesel cars. Norway’s system is one that can be aspired to across the globe.

Norway’s achievements have been worked towards for some decades now. Incentives were introduced from the 90s to encourage conversion to a zero emission scheme. Purchases of low emission cars for example are exempt from a 25% tax that conventional car buyers must pay (this policy is to be reviewed by the EU in 2020). Additionally, low emission car buyers are exempt from annual road tax, have access to bus lanes, free access to charging stations and do not pay at tollbooths (NE 2019). Norsk Elbilforening (NE) highlights the success in transition, as the ‘battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles together hold a 50% market share’ (NE n.d.).

A purchase tax is in place for the sale of all cars within Norway. The purchase tax for new cars is calculated by a combination of weight, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, making cars with high emissions expensive (NE n.d.). It is a progressive tax and makes most electric vehicle models cheaper to buy. Financial savings for the buyer is a key motivator for purchasing low emission cars, alongside the environmental benefits associated. Costs of running are also more favourable. Chief engineer of Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics, Erik Figenbaum, explained that annual costs for the electric car average ‘264 euros against an average of 1293 on petrol’ (Figenbaum as cited in Jones 2018).

Goals are continually being created to sustain success. The Norwegian government has set 2025 as the year for when all new cars sold ‘should be zero emission’ (Jones 2018).  Between 2016 and 2017, there was a ‘9.5% reduction in emissions from road transport’, suggesting the goal is achievable (NE 2019). This is in contrast to the same objective being reached in the United Kingdom (UK) by 2040. Minimal incentives exist in the UK, suggesting that there needs to be more enticements for the consumer to buy low emission cars.

Although the sustainable option for now, there is much to be improved upon. The process in sourcing natural minerals to produce the battery can be quite consuming and polluting. Such minerals consist of cobalt, lithium, manganese, nickel and graphite. Cobalt and lithium are considered rare minerals, and lithium prices doubled since 2015 (West 2017). When the battery stops being an effective power source for electric vehicles, the battery can ‘still have up to 70%’ of its capacity (Gardiner 2017). Rather than recycling the battery, the answer must be to reuse them for other energy needs. It is also important to consider where these minerals are sourced. The Democratic Republic of Congo for instance, holds over 60% of the global supply of cobalt (Union of Concerned Scientists 2018). Poor labor practices involved in production of cobalt must be addressed if beneficial goals are to be achieved across the board. Alternative materials are being trialled for the future.

The stance from those in power in Norway is that it should be favourable to choose zero emission cars over the opposite. This is achieved through making the polluter pay if they choose the less environmentally friendly option. It may be too late at the current point in time for countries to start as efficiently as Norway did, but to introduce effective policies for consumers who don’t commit to low emission cars is attainable.

Gardiner, Joey 2017, ‘The rise of electric cars could leave us with a big battery waste problem’, The Guardian, 10 August, viewed 15 June, https://www.theguardian.com/international

Jones, Harvey 2018, ‘What’s put the spark in Norway’s electric car revolution?’, The Guardian, 2 July, viewed 19 June 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/international

Noreweigian Embassy 2019, Towards zero emission transportation in Norway, viewed 15 June 2019, https://www.trbsustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Towards-zero-emission-transportation-in-Norway.pdf

Norsk Elbilforening n.d., Norwegian EV Policy, NE, Oslo, viewed 15 June, https://elbil.no/english/norwegian-ev-policy/

Union of Concern Scientists 2018, ‘Electric Vehicle Battery: Materials, Cost, Lifespan’, Union of Concerned Scientists, 9 March, viewed 15 June 2019, https://www.ucsusa.org

West, Karl 2017, ‘Carmakers’ electric dreams depend on supplies of rare minerals’, The Guardian, 30 July, viewed 19 June 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/au