How do you get a country to go all-in on electric cars? Ask Norway


The Chevrolet Bolt, one of Canada’s most popular electric car, is among the vehicles eligible for federal rebates that came into effect Wednesday. (Duane Burleson/Associated Press)

The federal government’s new $5,000 rebate for Canadians buying electric vehicles may encourage more drivers to make the switch — but will it make a dent in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions?

The rebate will likely raise sales of electric cars by a few per cent, but “that’s not enough to … transform the market,” said Nicholas Rivers, Canada Research Chair in climate and energy policy at the University of Ottawa.

Norway has achieved this transformation through “a bunch of incentives that are all piled on top of each other,” Rivers said.

Gunnar Eskeland, a professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, is more blunt about it. There have been incentives, yes, but also a “sledgehammer” in the form of Norway’s very high national taxes on vehicles — from which electric car buyers are exempt. 

Add in free use of toll roads, access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes and free parking with charging stations readily available, and Eskeland said electric car ownership has become tough for Norwegians to refuse.

Eskeland said the Norwegian government introduced the tax exemption years ago, when people were “charmed” by the idea of electric cars, but very few were available. The widespread adoption of zero-emission cars in Norway today is largely because the government didn’t “turn off” those tax exemptions once foreign EV manufacturers — including Tesla and Nissan — entered the Norwegian market, Eskeland said.

The tax breaks have cost the government a fair bit, which may mean it’s not a model other countries will be eager to adopt. But Eskeland said Norway’s enthusiasm may still help push the electric car agenda forward globally.  MORE


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