Norway is a spectacular country that derives most of its electricity from abundant hydroelectricity. Although prices have risen recently and tend to go up in winter, Norwegians generally pay a fair bit less for their juice than most of Europe. Also, they don’t allow themselves to get ripped off. The result of this is that electric cars sales are booming.
Although the figure rises daily, at the last count there were 15,000 EVs on Norwegian roads. That’s up by ten thousand since last year. Remember there are only slightly more than five million citizens in total so, pro rata, that’s a fairly high proportion of driving adults.
The problem they have now discovered is that, despite being pro-active on the subject of EV infrastructure, they are running short of charging points. One woman, working in Oslo, sent an email to work colleagues begging them to relinquish a charging post if they had completed topping up their batteries or she couldn’t get home.
The very things that made it so attractive to buy an electric car are now under pressure. Two incentives in particular have become victims of their own success: the ability to drive in bus lanes and free public charging spots. According to a local newspaper for the rich suburbs outside Oslo where the buyers of EVs live, electric vehicles now dominate the bus lanes into Oslo. During the rush hour on the 3rd December for example, they made up three quarters of the 829 vehicles that drove on the bus lane. After accounting for taxis, two-wheelers and mini-buses, all of which have the right to use the lane, buses made up only 7.5% of the traffic in the lane. It appears that the bus lanes can handle only about 1,000 vehicles per hour because of the many entries, exits and bus stops.
Charging facilities are also over-subscribed. The total number of public charging facilities in Norway is only 5,000. Oslo, the capital, has a mere 500 although private businesses have their own facilities, but those too are filling up quickly. Things are only going to get worse. Car makers have spotted this trend and are clambering over each other to get in on the sales action. Tesla are very popular and Volkswagen have recently launched the e-Up (surely this car should only be sold in Yorkshire?) to great acclaim.
Norway is due to reconsider its incentive structure for electric cars in 2017 presumably to dampen down the enthusiasm. At the same time Norwegians are getting a bit paranoid. They even have a word for it -‘rekkeviddeangst’ – meaning ‘range anxiety’. The success story that ate itself.