Norway becomes first country to sell more electric cars than petrol vehicles in 2020

EVs accounted for 54 per cent of new registrations last year, according to figures

The Audi e-tron in Abu Dhabi,
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Norway has become the first country in the world where electric cars account for more than half of new registrations, according to figures published on Tuesday by an industry group.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic delaying the release of several new models, electric vehicles accounted for 54.3 per cent of the new car market last year, up from 42.4 per cent a year earlier, according to Opplysningsradet for Veitrafikken, the country's Information Council for Road Traffic.

In December, electric car sales set a monthly record in Norway accounting for 66.7 per cent of new sales, the numbers boosted by the arrival of new models, OFV said.

"This is an extremely positive trend," Christina Bu, secretary general of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, said.

Bu, who said Norway was the first country to break the overall 50 per cent threshold, added that the country is "almost on track to meet 2025 targets".

The Nordic country, co-incidentally the largest producer of oil in western Europe, aims to have all new cars "zero emission" – meaning electric or hydrogen powered – by that year.

Heavy subsidies 

Norway has pushed ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to paving the way for electric cars by instituting heavy subsidies.

Unlike diesel or petrol cars, clean cars are virtually tax-free in the country, making their prices much more competitive, even if other benefits – such as being exempt from tolls and being able to use lanes reserved for public transport – have been cut back.

The four best-selling models in the Nordic country were the Audi e-tron, the Tesla Model 3, the Volkswagen ID.3 and the Nissan Leaf – all fully electric.

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk speaks next to a screen showing an image of Tesla Model 3 car during an opening ceremony for Tesla China-made Model Y program in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

The fifth placed car – the Volkswagen Golf – can be bought in a rechargeable version, but the statistics do not differentiate the engine types.

Hybrid vehicles, combining fossil fuel and renewable energy, also gained market share in 2020, up to 29.1 per cent compared to 25.9 per cent in 2019.

Despite outpacing the rest of the world, the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association was hungry for even more and had expected electric cars to account for around 60 per cent of new cars last year.

"We would have made it if it hadn't been for the coronavirus," Bu said. "But the virus has delayed several launches."

Heading for more records

For this year, the association expects electric cars to account for 65 per cent of new cars.

"For the first time, the number of launches of electric models, up to 40, is expected to exceed that of other vehicles, less than 30, including rechargeable hybrids," Bu said.

Even if it is progressing at record levels, the electrified portion of the Norwegian car fleet is still small and at the end of 2019, only 9 per cent of the country's vehicles were electric.

The advances have also come at a steep price tag for the country. According to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, last year the loss of tax revenue from the subsidies approached 20 billion Norwegian kroner ($2.3 billion).