electric car, EV, EVs, Norway, rapid charger, fast charger, growth

The Amazing Story of EVs in Norway

Why are there so many EVs in Norway?  Our resident Norwegian, Bea Cecilie Karlsen explains all.

Norway is the global leader when it comes to electric vehicles. In 2018 the nation’s electric car market share was at 46 percent of their new vehicle sales, while the second largest market share was at 17 percent in 2018 according to IEA (International Energy Agency). Clearly the Norwegian Government’s hard effort is paying off.   So how have they done it?

Promoting EVs in Norway

The Norwegian government decided early on to motivate people by creating incentives for electric vehicle owners such as exemption to paying road tolls, being allowed to drive in bus and taxi lanes, free ferry passes and reduced sales taxes and VAT. The aim was to even out the cost between ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles and EVs.  This was done by reducing taxes for EVs and increasing taxes for ICE vehicles; by doing so the increased taxes for ICE vehicles paid for the EV incentives.

Morten, Harket, Aha, electric car, EV, Bellona, 1980s

The sun always shines on EV.  Morten Harket promotes electric cars in the 1980s.  (Image: Bellona)

Norway started its transition to EVs way back in the 1980s. To drive the incentives, the lead singer from the band Aha, Morten Harket, helped the NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) Bellona to kick-start the no road toll and reduced taxes incentives in the 80s by driving around in an electric car and not paying road tolls for one year. The issue received a huge amount of media attention due to Morten Harket’s involvement.

In the 90s the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association was founded, with an aim to promote electric vehicles among Norwegian citizens. This non-profit organisation has gained more than 75,000 members over the years. The association has calculated that currently the ratio between EVs and public fast charging points are 120 to 1, which makes Norway one of the first countries to tackle the necessary charging infrastructure issue first.  There are now about 200,000 BEVs (battery electric vehicles) and almost 100,000 PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) in the nation. Due to the rapid changes within the car market, the association has received visits from petrol station chains, oil companies and car-manufacturers that wish to gain a better understanding of the shifting car market.

The EV movement has lasted for about 30 years, during which the incentives have slowly changed once car manufacturers produced cheaper EVs and improved their technology. Growing from no EVs to about 300,000 EVs in only 30 years is impressive, but it does not illustrate how slow and gradual the EV movement in Norway was initially. In 2014 there were less than 50,000 EVs in the country. However, with a wider range of EVs now on the market, the number of EVs has gone up 6-fold in just 5 years.

EVs, Norway, market growth, 2018

EVs in Norway have experienced massive growth in the last 3 years

An ideal environment

Due to the nation’s ideal environment for hydro power, their goal does not seem out of reach. Norway has huge amounts of hydro producing very cheap electricity. The average electricity price for households in Norway is 42,5 NOK øre or 3.6p/kWh (the average UK price is about 15p/kWh).  With EVs being three times cheaper to run in the UK than ICE vehicles, in Norway this ratio is 12.5 times cheaper.  Getting an EV in Norway is clearly a no-brainer.

Taking it one step further

EVs are not only popular amongst individuals but amongst companies too, as ferries, buses and taxis are increasingly going electric, which continues to further motivate a larger national EV movement. Domestic planes are due to become electric too by 2040 according to the airport company Avinor. As a result of all these new changes, there is no surprise that Norway is ultimately aiming at becoming the first 100 percent electrified country, within all sectors.

The nation’s major changes will hopefully inspire more nations to follow the race to electrify sectors and potentially the whole nation. The race is on for the first country to become 100 percent electrified, if another nation is up to the task!

What can the UK learn from EVs in Norway?

Clearly, Norway benefits from having large amounts of cheap 100% renewable electricity.  However, UK renewables are rapidly growing, especially offshore wind farms.  New renewables are currently the cheapest forms of new generation, so it is possible the UK could at least partially replicate the conducive Norwegian market.

In Norway, the government was responsible for providing funding for installing EVCPs and later the private sector joined in installing EVCPs. From 2015 the state enterprise Enova created a new support scheme that aims to place rapid charging stations along the Norwegian main roads roughly every 50 km, in which each charging station must have two chargers minimum to reduce queues and maintenance issues. Norway has reached the tipping point where governmental support will no longer be required in the near future, and private operators have begun building fast and rapid charging stations without public funding. In the UK, we do not have an overarching body like Enova to set strategy, and it has been left to the private sector to install rapid chargers, and public authorities to install a sufficient volume of fast chargers in their area.  The UK’s more market-based approach has led to some areas being undersupplied with EVCPs.

Statistics support the statement that Norwegian EV buyers are not buying EVs based on charge points availability, thus range anxiety seems to be less of an issue in the nation. This is supported by a survey by the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, that found that most EV owners in Norway charge at home. The Norwegian case also supports the fact that incentives for buying EVs are helpful for high sales of EVs.

Final Thoughts

Based on the case of Norwegian EVs adoption, the UK is part way to replicating this model.  We will not be able to generate renewable power at the same price as Norwegian hydro, but more low-cost renewables are being added to the UK network. We would benefit from some more strategic direction as to charge point location, rather than relying on a pure market-based model. However, if we can deliver a sufficient number of publicly accessible rapid and fast chargers, the range anxiety issue can be solved, which will lead to a dramatic increase in EVs.

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Autum, acer leaves, japan

Solar Energy and the Seasons

As a solar engineer, it’s my job to understand the movement of the sun across the sky throughout the year.  However, a technical understanding of solar movement often feels at odds with my appreciation of the world around me.  That confusion comes from our cultural perceptions of the seasons, and their definitions.  So, when exactly do spring, summer, autumn and winter start and end?

Solar Seasons

From a solar perspective, we can look at the movement of the sun across the sky.  We know that at the summer solstice, June 21st , that the sun reaches it’s highest point in the sky, and that our days are longest.  Similarly, at the winter solstice (December 21st), the midday sun is at its lowest point in the sky, and the days are at their shortest.

Midway between the two solstices lie the spring (20th March) and autumn (22nd September) equinoxes.  These dates don’t get as much attention as the solstices, but consider this – on the date of the equinoxes, everywhere on the planet receives exactly 12 hours of daylight.  It doesn’t matter if you’re in Aberdeen or Abu Dhabi, on these days, everyone is equal.

soalr energy, seasonal variation

Solar energy varies from solstice to solstice

These definitions imply that the solstices and equinoxes are the midpoints of the seasons.  It’s always annoyed me when people talk about the summer solstice as the first day of summer – from a solar energy perspective it’s the middle of summer!  Crazy fools!

It’s something our pagan ancestors understood very well.  We know that they understood the passage of the sun across the sky in intricate detail – look how Stonehenge aligns with the summer solstice, and the entrance passageway to Newgrange in Ireland aligns with the winter solstice. The four points between the equinoxes and solstices were marked with festivals, each denoting the beginning of a season.  Beltane (May 1st) marked the start of summer, and Samhain (31st October) the start of winter.  These two, in particular live on in modern times.  May 1st is still celebrated as the start of summer.  In Oxford, for example, 1000’s of revellers gather at dawn to mark the start of summer, with choir singing, morris dancers, bands, and (lets be frank here) the chance to go to the pub at 6am.  Simialrly, Samhain marked the start of winter, and now lives on as Halloween.

Similarly, the start of spring was celebrated on 1st Februray (Imbolc) and the start of autumn (Lughnasadh, or Lammas) on the 1st of August.

And this is where the whole thing falls apart for me.  Really?  Autumn starts on the 1st August?   A week ago we had the hottest day the UK has ever seen, and today it’s meant to be the start of autumn?  Are you kidding me?

Thermal Seasons

The above description of the seasons doesn’t even tally with what we were taught at school.  Back then, I was told:

  • Winter – December, January, February
  • Spring – March, April, May
  • Summer – June, July, August
  • Autumn – September, October, November

So what’s the difference?  It comes about because our perception of the seasons is more about heat than light.  There is a lag between the times of maximum sunlight and the times of maximum heat, as it takes time for the land and oceans to warm up.  This means what we feel (temperature) is out of phase with what we see (sunlight).  If we consider the lag between sunlight and heat to be 1 month, that shifts the solar definition of the seasons in line with what we were taught at school.  If we consider the time lag to be longer at 6.5 weeks, then the crazy fools who say the summer solstice is the start of summer, would actually be correct.

temperature, Seasonal, London

Temperature in London, UK peaks after the summer solstice (from www.yr.no)

What if there aren’t 4 seasons?

Now here’s a thought.  What if there aren’t 4 seasons throughout the year?  In north European climates, the year can actually be divided into 6 seasons of 2 months each.  These are based on ecology – the observed plant and animal behaviours that are seen exclusively in these seasons.  They are defined as:

  • Hibernal (winter) – December and January. Bare trees, freezing cold, and snow.  Stay inside, hot chocolate, .mulled wine and Christmas
  • Prevernal (pre-spring) – February and March. Trees begin to bud, that first bright, clear, cold morning of the year, daffodils.
  • Vernal (spring) – April and May.  Trees come into leaf, cherry blossoms, and planting crops in the veggie patch.
  • Estival (summer): June and July. Hot, hot, hot.  Vegetation in abundance, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, and Glastonbury.
  • Serotinal (harvest) – August and September. Leaves begin to turn, crops mature (serotinal literally means ripening). The weather is still warm, barbeques in the back garden, but you might need some candlelight at the end of the evening.
  • Autumnal (autumn) – October and November. Leaves turn colour fully and fall to the ground.  Winter coat comes out, hats and scarves, kicking piles of leaves, and catching your breath on the morning air.

seasons, solar, thermal, prevernal, vernal, Estival, Serotinal, autumnal, hibernal

For me, this seems a much better description of the passing of the year.  The ‘extra’ seasons of pre-spring and harvest capture those time of year perfectly, autumn is reserved for just the period of falling leaves, and brilliantly, winter is only 2 months long.

So, as I write this on 1st August, welcome to the start of Serotinal!   That sounds a bit of a clunky phrase – and it might take a while to catch on!  But it doesn’t sound as weird as autumn starting, when its 25 degrees outside.

So, take a look around, observe your surroundings, and find which one of these three seasonal definitions suits you best.

Further reading