In Norway people switch to electric cars to save the planet - GulfToday

In Norway people switch to electric cars to save the planet

Norway cars 1st pic

Odd Borgar Jolstad, driver of the custom made Tesla Motors car. Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Some want to save the planet even in the afterlife.

In Oslo, a funeral home offers the dearly departed a trip to their final resting place in an eye-catching electric hearse, as electric vehicles take over the roads in the Scandinavian country.

"Many people drive an electric car in Norway and some want to leave this planet in a green way," says undertaker Odd Borgar Jolstad, demonstrating his customised Tesla in the tranquility of the Grefsen cemetery overlooking the capital.

"So this is our little contribution to the environment," he smiles.

Rich or not, young and old, hip urbanites and rural dwellers alike: Norwegians, including Crown Prince Haakon, are increasingly switching to electric cars.

From the affordable Nissan Leaf to the luxurious Tesla, more than half of new cars sold in the country in March were run on batteries rather than fuel.

"Many people drive an electric car in Norway and some want to leave this planet in a green way. So this is our little contribution to the environment.

"We will probably pass 50 percent" for the full year as well, says Christina Bu, secretary general of the Norwegian EV (electric vehicle) Association.

That is unprecedented in Norway and elsewhere, and the share is expected to increase further with the arrival of new models offering ever-increasing range.

Growing green awareness?

While the Nordic country is the biggest oil producer in Western Europe, it is officially aiming for all new cars sold to be zero emission by 2025.

"There are of course some challenges but it's definitely possible," Bu says.

To meet that goal, Norway will have to switch into higher gear for its recharging infrastructure, setting up stations along motorways, in rural zones and private parking lots, she notes.

But do Norwegians, who owe their immense wealth to North Sea oil, really have a greater environmental conscience than others?

Electric cars are almost entirely exempt from the heavy taxes imposed on petrol and diesel cars, which makes them competitively priced.

Social costs

But even denizens of this wealthy state grumble about the cost.

As Norway's car fleet grows increasingly cleaner and is therefore subjected to fewer taxes, the state's revenue from car-related taxes is now 2.6 billion euros lower than in 2007, according to the government.

Norway cars 2nd pic
Electric cars are being charged on a street in the Norwegian capital Oslo. 
Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

Electric cars are also allowed to use bus lanes freely. However, as their large numbers slow down bus traffic, in the most congested parts of Oslo they can use bus lanes only if there are at least two or more people in the vehicle.

The duration of the exemptions guaranteed until 2021 is increasingly being questioned.

"We subsidise electric vehicles in Norway because they have somewhat lower CO2 emissions than conventional cars," notes Bjart Holtsmark, a researcher at Statistics Norway.

Meanwhile, electric cars are attracting more than just private consumers, with commercial clients following the trend as well as taxis and postal and fire services, among others.

Agence France-Presse