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Plugged-in Norway leads the electric charge

Almost half of new vehicle sales in 2018 were EVs, thanks in part to a regime of incentives

In the fjord of Mosjøen, Norway, Tesla has a charging station for electric cars. Photograph: Beatriz Montes Duran/Getty

In the fjord of Mosjøen, Norway, Tesla has a charging station for electric cars. Photograph: Beatriz Montes Duran/Getty


While most markets show a rise in electric vehicle sales, they still represent a small proportion of overall cars on the road. Norway is an outlier in this regard, where almost half of new vehicle sales in 2018 were EVs.

LeasePlan’s Car Cost Index measures the cost of owning a small to medium-sized car in 21 European countries, based on factors such as cost of fuel, insurance, taxes, maintenance and also depreciation. The report shows that wealthier countries tend to have a higher cost of ownership, with costs of fuel and insurance rising in relative proportion to average household income.

In their latest report, the average cost of ownership for a petrol car in Norway was the highest among the countries analysed, at €731 per month – Ireland ranked 12th at €506 per month, with Romania having the lowest cost of ownership at €353 per month.

In comparison, electric cars in Norway averaged a cost of ownership of €670 per month. By these measures the report found that “Norway is the most expensive place to drive a petrol or diesel car, and it is also the only country where electric cars are, on average, cheaper than petrol or diesel cars”.

Shining example

“Norway is a shining example of how to introduce EVs to a market,” says Paddy Comyn, head of communications with Volkswagen Group Ireland, “but we must, of course, remember that this is quite a wealthy country, they are already very ecologically minded and their new cars are astonishingly expensive, so when their government brought in incentives to buy EVs, they were met with a very willing audience.”

Norway brought in many incentives that have been replicated in Ireland and elsewhere, such as reduced tolls and reduced tax. However, much of the appeal of EVs in Norway comes down to the fact that the country imposes a heavy import duty on vehicles, as well as a significant registration fee, which it waived for electric vehicles, effectively making EVs much cheaper to buy than vehicles with traditional combustion engines.

“We equate very well with Norway when it comes to incentives, and our country is probably more suited to EVs than Norway as we have a smaller land mass and fewer extremes of temperature,” says Comyn, “but if we wanted to get to Norway levels, we would need to find a way, through taxation, to make EVs cheaper than petrol or diesel equivalents.”