The government in Oslo spending billions of oil export dollars to help the affluent buy an electric second car they wouldn’t otherwise want is European environmentalism at its phoniest and most hare-brained.
It’s not that you can’t financially encourage societies to be more planet-conscious, but this charade of perverse incentives, inefficiencies, and negative side effects is not it.
Norway’s electric car miracle is primarily one of numbers.
Last year, EVs accounted for 49.8 percent of all cars purchased in the country, and so far this year three in five new cars bought in Norway are electric. For comparison, 2.1 percent of new cars registered in the US last year were EVs, while for the EU the figure is even lower – 0.9 percent.
Thus, with a population of only 5 million, Norway has become the world’s third biggest electric car market.
This has burnished the Scandinavian country’s credentials as a land populated by uniquely-ethical people.
But how has this incredible outlying result been achieved? Pure shameless bribery from the state.
By dropping VAT, CO2 tax and weight tax a Tesla imported for $70k becomes cheaper than an Audi that cost $35k when it crossed the Norwegian border. Add in the lowered road tax and free passage through toll roads, free places on ferries and free parking, as well as the difference in the fuel price, such cars are 75 percent cheaper to operate.
Norway is spending about $2 billion each year on the subsidies – as much as it expends on parental leave pay – and with the current uptake rate and existing rules the current figure will balloon into the tens of billions.
Surely, to cost so much it must be the most efficient way of fighting CO2. But it isn’t, because there are tens of different practical means of reducing carbon output that give more bang for the buck, while buying the equivalent carbon credits – which could then go unused – is, without exaggeration, thousands of times cheaper.
At least you are taking conventional cars off the road… Well, not really. Two-thirds of the EV buyers have another internal combustion engine car. Similarly two-thirds of households buying their only car, will still buy traditional engines.
Because other than for urbanites making regular short city runs, owning an electric car is impractical, particularly as your sole means of independent transportation in a country with a small population scattered over great distances.
Unsurprisingly, studies show that rich people are many times more likely to invest in an electric car – particularly since there are few second-hand ones available – than poor people. And then they still use it less than their main car.
One thing it replaces though is public transport, which becomes less financially attractive, and more troublesome, what with the EVs clogging all the dedicated bus lanes they are allowed to use.