Electric vehicles accounted for more than half of all cars sold in Norway last year, the first country in the world to sell more EVs than diesel and petrol versions. It places the nordic country way out in front in the race to kill off the internal combustion engine.

The market share of electric cars in Norway reached 54% in 2020, up from 42% the previous year, according to official figures. With hybrid vehicles included, the share hits 83%. Petrol and diesel cars, which had a combined market share of 71% in 2015, represent just 17% now.

The momentum continues with figures for December revealing that battery electric vehicles accounted for two thirds of all sales during that month.

Oiling the Wheels

Ironically, Norway is the largest crude oil producer in western Europe, but has been using oil revenues to help build the country’s $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund. This has been utilised to embrace and promote renewable energy, while dumping oil and gas stocks.

The incentives make most electric vehicle models cheaper to buy than similar petrol models, according to the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association. Buyers enjoy other incentives including use of bus lanes, and reduced fees on state ferries and toll roads. The huge tax breaks are helping ensure every new passenger car and van in the country by the end of 2025 will be zero emission.

Alongside this, the country has created a national infrastructure of 10,000 publicly available charging points.

From Lab to Road

The policy has turned the country’s car market into a laboratory for carmakers seeking a path to a future without internal combustion engines, vaulting new brands and models to the top of bestseller lists in recent years.

Volkswagen’s luxury brand Audi was the market leader in 2020, according to OFV, selling 9,227 of its e-tron vehicles in the country. Tesla’s Model 3, the 2019 leader, was pushed into second place with 7,770 sales. Volkswagen’s ID.3 ranked third with 7,754 cars sold.

Electric vehicle sales are expected to continue to soar in 2021, according to industry analysts and car distributors, as more models are brought to the market.

“Our preliminary forecast is for electric cars to surpass 65% of the market in 2021,” said Christina Bu who heads the Norwegian EV Association, an interest group, speaking in The Guardian. “If we manage that, the goal of selling only zero-emission cars in 2025 will be within reach.”

Tesla’s mid-sized sports utility vehicle, the Model Y, is due to reach the Norwegian market this year, as are the first electric SUVs from Ford, BMW and Volkswagen.

Compare and Contrast

New car sales in the country last year were 141,412, of which 76,789 were fully electric. The change has seen sales of diesel-only engined cars have tumbled from a peak of 75.7% of the overall Norwegian market in 2011, to just 8.6% last year.

In comparison, while UK sales of EVs was up 67% in 2020, they still only accounted for 17.5% of market share – the Tesla 3 was the top selling EV. Petrol sales topped the figures at 55% (down 39%) and Diesel 16% (down 55%). Hybrids complete the picture with a market share of 11% (up 130%).

The government has recently set a target of zero fossil fuel vehicle sales by 2030. Without government subsidy, new EV prices remain high in the UK, slowing sales that continue to be hindered by ‘range fear’ and a complicated and poor national charging infrastructure according the public surveys. However, the government has pledged up to £1bn to support the transition to electric vehicles in recent years. A further £1.3bn was pledged to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure. The UK now has 13,000 charging points, but only 2,600 of these include rapid chargers.