Those of a certain age will remember the 80s pop band A-ha but not many will know that they were key in helping lead the revolution in electric cars in their home country of Norway.
The country now leads the world in electric car sales. For example, in November 2021 electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for 77 percent of all cars sold in the country.
An instrumental change in the move towards electric vehicles all started when the lead singer of A-ha, Morten Harket, and Frederic Hauge, the head of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, imported a converted electric Fiat Panda from Switzerland in 1988 and went on a road trip.
The duo drove the car around, mostly in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, refusing to pay road tolls and parked illegally to incur fines to highlight the advantages of electric vehicles. It wasn’t long before the car was impounded by the authorities and auctioned to cover the fines.
Hauge bought the car back and the stunt of illegal parking and toll dodging continued. The huge media attention surrounding the stunts later led the authorities to take on board the idea of clean driving.
By the late 1990s and early this century more incentives were added to encourage the use of electric cars including tolls exception, free parking, free ferry journeys and the use of bus lanes. When it came to buying electric vehicles the country also went on to offer VAT and purchase tax exemptions.
The response was slow to begin with but gained traction over the first decade of this century, especially once Nissan and Mitsubishi moved in to offer more affordable electric cars. Along with improved technology and larger electric vehicles suitable for family use becoming available, sales started to rocket.
Now Norway leads the world in electric vehicles sales. It’s also looking set to reach its target of banning the sales of fossil fuel cars and light commercial vehicles by 2025. This is at least five years earlier than most countries around the world.
What’s more impressive is that all of this happened in a country that is a major oil and gas producer. Despite this, most of the country’s domestic energy comes from renewable hydropower. It shows that forward-thinking can lead to both cleaner driving and sustainable energy. It’s a model much of the world could learn from.
Today, many big global electric carmakers have set up in Norway including Tesla, who recently opened their chargers to all electric vehicles in the country, and more recently, Chinese manufacturers NIO and Xpeng have launched their businesses in the country.