Monday, May 19, 2014

The PEV Market: In Norway vs. Sweden, Norway wins 10 to 0.65.

Congratulations to Norway on its bicentennial. And as Norwegians celebrate the 200th anniversary of their constitution, they have another reason to be proud: this year Norway will be become the first country in which more than 10% of new car sales will be plug-in electrics during a full calendar year. This is an an amazing stat, especially for an oil-producing nation.

Let's compare Norway's adoption of e-cars to its neighboring nation of Sweden. Norway and Sweden are two countries of a similar shape and size. Similar cultures, languages, and tax systems. Two well-off countries with comparable infrastructures and reasonably comparable income levels. Yes, one has oil. But the other has IKEA. Let's call it a wash.

In a new market report Research Capsule is publishing entitled "PEVs, there's no turning back now," ReCap forecasts that while more than 10% of new cars sold in Norway during 2014 will be PEVs, only 0.65% of new cars sold in Sweden will be plug-ins (this includes PHEVs as well as full battery-electrics).

Countries which penalize car buyers with chunky fiscal disincentives to buy and own larger, heavier cars have the opportunity to encourage quick adoption of PEVs by reducing or eliminating those punitive damages. But many countries tax electric cars in essentially the same manner as internal combustion vehicles. Not Norway. Norway has eliminated many of the taxes and registration fees on PEVs, and also has created a great charging infrastructure for electrics. In addition, PEVs can park for free in many places and also use the bus lanes. These incentives have enabled Norway to become the world leader in the adoption of electric cars, and are the reason Tesla chose Norway as one of its first new markets outside of the U.S.

Looking across Norway's border, we see a vastly different market. In Sweden, we estimate less than 1,800 plug-in cars will be sold this year, or less than 0.65% of all new car sales. Any Swedish car buyer who does the math will find that there is no financial incentive to buy electric. Some cynical Swedes we've spoken with say that Sweden won't offer the same level of tax incentives as Norway until semi-Swedish Volvo becomes a real competitor in the PEV market. Why give sales away to Japanese Nissan? It's an interesting thought, though Volvo does have some plug-in hybrids.

Let's call this the Scandinavian Contrast. Norway v Sweden. But soon many of the Norwegian fiscal incentives are set to expire meaning Norway itself will be the perfect Petri dish for observing an e-car culture. In the race to PEV adoption, will Norway's lead be frozen in time?

Norway is in the PEV fast lane:
Drivers of electric cars can use the bus lanes.

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