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DUBAI // Electric vehicles are a strategic priority for some European countries, with governments offering incentives for drivers and investing in charging infrastructure as a way to speed up adoption rates by the public.

Among the nations with the most advantages for electric car owners is Norway, which also has the highest per capita market share in the world.

There are currently 40,000 electric cars on Norway’s roads with the number expected to grow to 50,000 next year. About 80 per cent of the plug-in cars are privately owned, while the country’s overall conventional vehicle fleet is estimated at 2.9 million, said Tom Norbech, senior adviser at Transnova, a government funding programme.

Support for zero-emission cars has existed since the 1990s, partly as a way to create incentives for the Norwegian car builder, TH!NK. The company eventually went bankrupt in 2011 but Norway has continued to promote ownership of electric cars as a way to reduce its greenhouse emissions – hydropower provides about 80 per cent of the country’s electricity.

Over time, incentives for electric vehicle owners have grown to include exemptions from road toll and value added tax, free public parking, use of priority bus lanes and other benefits.

At the same time, the country is providing the infrastructure to support the large electric fleet and currently has almost 6,000 charging points.

“We believe the incentives and the charging infrastructure are important. They go hand-in-hand,” said Mr Norbech.

Commenting on what the UAE could learn from Norway’s experience, he said that cheap petrol prices and high purchasing power in large segments of the population made the Emirates a special case. While financial incentives may not have the same effect here, advantages that contribute to drivers’ convenience, for example by ensuring faster journeys, could work.

“I would advise to think, to be creative and look what kind of practical advantages can be given to people,” Mr Norbech said.

Besides government support, another factor that could speed up adoption is improvements in car battery technologies that extend the range of electric cars, said Heikki Parve, programme specialist at KredEx, the government agency that operates Estonia’s electric vehicle charging network.

“The range today is an obstacle,” Mr Parve said. “You can drive 100 to 120 kilometres and in our winter climate it is less.”

Despite this issue, last year Estonia became the first country to create a nationwide network of 165 fast-charging stations, installed in towns and villages and covering a minimum distance of 40 to 60 kilometres along the country’s highways. The system has 1,100 clients.

The country of 1.3 million people is also offering a subsidy of 50 per cent of the cost of an electric car, capped at €18,000 (Dh18,673). For owners, electric vehicles are also cheaper to operate, said Mr Parve. Charging costs as little as €2.5 with monthly packages offering unlimited charging for just €30.

vtodorova@thenational.ae

Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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