Today, and only a few years down the road, Oslo boasts the highest number of electric vehicles per capita – and Norway remains the only country in the world where an entirely electric car joined the best-selling ranks of Norway’s top 10 vehicles in 2012.

At the same time, this Scandinavian role model may not be the most obvious location for electric vehicle use. After all, painfully chilly winter temperatures and snow-filled roads put a natural limit to the cars’ battery life and range, but the Norwegian government has come up with a clever plan to encourage more widespread EV use.

Norway is not the most obvious place for EVs
Norway is not the most obvious place for EVs

The country’s so-called “comfort incentives” are very enticing: EV drivers pay no sales tax or “initial registration fee,” they are cleared for bus lanes, and they pay no dues on toll roads or ferries that are part of the regional road system. Oh, and before we forget: They also get to park for free in all public parking spaces. While charging stations remain few and far between in other countries, Norway offers an impressive 3.500 posts and 100 fast-charging stations for EV drivers – who have been quick on the uptake, refueling their new vehicles day and night.

Strongly aware of climate change and its manifold repercussions, Norway has introduced equally multi-pronged schemes to curtail the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, the laudable EV incentive scheme is no universal blueprint and template: While Norway enjoys plentiful renewable energy and almost 100 per cent hydropower-generated electricity, most other nations still rely on polluting technologies like coal-fired power plants to produce their juice.

Oslo’s roads are filled with electric vehicles; photo by Daniel78 CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

At the time of writing, transport accounts for approx. a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. With its EV initiative, non-EU member Norway now leads the way on the continent in terms of climate change campaigns. But the EU is keen to make up for lost ground: Member states have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 – a goal that will require a sizeable shift towards renewable energy and power. According to the BBC, the European Commission plans to phase out “conventionally fueled” cars in urban environments to cut our reliance on oil and carbon emissions by 60 per cent. Other targets – for 2020 – include a 10 per cent share of all EU transport powered by renewables as well as at least 9 million EVs on Europe’s roads by this earlier milestone.

Some might consider these big and bold plans overly ambitious, yet according to European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas (2011), “the freedom to travel is a basic right for our citizens. Curbing mobility is not an option. Nor is business as usual. The widely-held belief that you need to cut mobility to fight climate change is simply not true. We can break the transport system’s dependence on oil without sacrificing its efficiency and compromising mobility.” Two years on, not much has changed on our roads, but we can certainly look to Oslo for an inspiring example on how to take an active stance in tackling climate change, street by street.

Text by Lilly Wolf
Header image by ajatus/