In one European country, Norway, sales of electric and hybrid accounted for half of new registrations in 2017, a record fueled by subsidies that have extended the country’s push to lead in shifting from fossil-fuel engines.
Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52% of all new car sales last year in Norway versus 40% in 2016, the independent Norwegian Road Federation reported this week.
“No one else is close” in terms of a national share of electric cars, OFV chief Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen said. “For the first time, we have a fossil-fuel market share below 50%.”
Norway exempts new electric cars from almost all taxes and grants perks that can be worth thousands of dollars a year in terms of free or subsidized parking, re-charging and use of toll roads, ferries and tunnels.
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It also generates almost all its electricity from hydropower, so the shift helps to reduce air pollution.
Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Norway was far ahead of other nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, China, France and Britain in electric car sales.
By the IEA yardstick, which excludes hybrid cars with only a small electric motor that cannot be plugged in, electric car sales in Norway rose to 39% in 2017 from 29 in 2016, when the Netherlands was in second on 6.4%.
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The top-selling vehicles in Norway were the Volkswagen Golf, BMWi3, Toyota RAV4 and Tesla Model X. The Tesla is pure electric and others have both full electric and hybrid versions.
Last year, Norway’s parliament set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars sold should be zero emissions. Among other nations, France and Britain plan to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Electric cars have widespread support among Norway’s 5.3 million people. A plan last year by the right-wing government to trim electric car incentives, dubbed a “Tesla Tax”, was dropped in negotiations on the 2018 budget.
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Sales of diesel cars fell most in 2017, to 23% from 31% in 2016. Some regions in Norway have started to charge higher road tolls for diesel cars than for petrol-driven vehicles.