Once an electric vehicle driver – always an EV driver

The transformation of transport away from fossil fuels is vital in our drive toward a more sustainable society. Electric power is today the best available option. To make a positive impact the EV industry needs to step up, and ensure that all new energy need to propel the EV come from renewable sources. Today this can easily be done through the use of the EU based renewable energy certificate system, named Guarantees of Origin.

Confession: I’m an electric car addict and I have been for almost 6 years. I’m also somehow frustrated and sad; that so few people around the world share my addiction. Because it really is an addiction. Once an EV driver, always an EV driver.

I live in Asker, a suburb 30 km outside Oslo, Norway. For 6 years I’ve enjoyed driving a small and noiseless car on a daily basis – to and from work, bringing kids here and there and shopping at the local supermarket. When the family decided to buy its first “EV”, it was designated the role as car #2. We quickly realized it was our family car – a Volvo station wagon – that ended up being a car #2 and primarily in use during the weekends.

Asker has a population of almost 55.000, or approximately 21.000 households. With nearly 1000 electric cars among its inhabitants, it is likely one of the most “EV dense” places in Europe today. With “1 out of every 20” household owning an EV in Asker – driving electric has become the norm for many people. If you don’t own one yourself – someone on your street does. Or at least friends or family close by, does. Also driving to work in the morning I am among “friends” as I’m pretty much surrounded by electric vehicles.

So you may ask “why is this important”? Does this really change anything? I think so.

Reaching a critical mass of EV’s locally in Asker has changed the perception of almost all inhabitants in Asker with regard to the electric car. Many may choose not to invest in an EV quite yet, but when polled a significant number confirmed they now will consider buying an EV next time. Most of the negative EV myths circulating change as soon as you start driving one yourself or you see others using them. Range anxiety, for example, disappears after a few days behind the wheel.

Driving an EV is not for nerds anymore. The cars are good, they are effective, they are cheap to use, they are safe, and they are truly enjoyable to drive. In September, Nissan Leaf was the most sold car in Asker & Bærum (neighboring municipality) – of ALL car makes. More than 5 % of all cars sold in Norway in the same month were electric. The “magic” number of 10.000 EV’s (in Norway) will be reached as we enter 2013. So it is possible.

So what happened in Asker and other Norwegian municipalities? Being a suburb of greater Oslo, Asker fit perfectly into the incentive package constructed by local and federal policymakers in Norway. This EV incentive package is comprehensive and tailored, but is NOT costly. It includes the following main components:

  1. NO VAT on electric vehicles
  2. Reduced and low road taxes
  3. Access to driving in bus & taxi lanes on highway
  4. Free parking – country wide – on all public parking areas
  5. Free charging on designated EV parking areas (not quick charging)
  6. Free access to publicly owned ferries
  7. 50% lower tax for benefit of EV as company car

Especially the city of Oslo has been visionary in establishing an extensive network of charging stations. Not expensive and not advanced – but cheap, simple charging points – all around. Charging points are almost more important as marketing tool for EVs, than for charging itself.

In Norway there is one other key game changer – namely a polluter pays principle on “normal” diesel/petrol cars. This principle makes “normal” cars significantly more expensive in Norway than in any other European country. It also makes EVs relatively cheaper – and pricewise in line with “normal” cars.

The “EV Package” will of course not live forever – so far it has been frozen until 2017. With the Norwegian market reaching real critical mass in a few years – the EV will be the natural choice – and not needing special incentives anymore.

Norway is a small country and a small market for cars. Without similar success in other countries the car makers either give up, or slow down their development and roll-out. Although an EV will be cheaper over time – consumers need the initial purchase price of an EV to be competitive with diesel/petrol alternatives.

The message to countries still not cracking the EV code is that less talking is needed. And instead simple, targeted incentives are needed. They quickly spur initial sales, motivating again new consumers to join my EV addiction.