Electric car sales reach new heights

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Nearly every third car sold in Norway last year was a zero-emission vehicle, with sales of electric cars shooting up by another 40 percent over 2017. More than 35,000 Norwegians are also on waiting lists to buy electric cars called elbiler, meaning that 2019 is expected to be another banner year.

Electric car sales have really shifted into high gear in Norway now, and are expanding their reach well beyond cities and towns. PHOTO elbil.no/Ståle Frydenlund

“The development is going almost frighteningly fast,” Øyvind Solberg Thorsen, director of the state agency monitoring road traffic statistics (OFV), told news bureau NTB. For the first time in 10 years, the most popular car in Norway was not the Volkswagen Golf, but rather the electric Nissan Leaf.

Sales of zero emission- and plug-in hybrid cars accounted for 49.1 percent of all new cars in Norway in 2018, according to figures from the state trade association Norsk Elbilforening. If used car imports are taken into consideration, such sales reached 52 percent of all sales, according to OFV. That’s a new milestone at a time when sales of long-popular cars like the conventional Golf and Mercedes are shifting into reverse.

“We see that producers that can deliver electric cars are the winners in the statistics,” Thorsen told NTB. He added that 2018 will be remembered as the year when new personal cars that run on alternative fuel really confirmed their already strong position in the market.

Concerns have turned to the failure of many carmakers to produce enough zero-emission cars to meet demand. Norway continues to lead the way in its use of electric cars, growth that’s long been charged up by various tax incentives that can make elbiler much cheaper than conventional cars. As demand for electric cars rises in other countries, carmakers will face even more production pressure.

“The question is whether the branch can deliver 70,000 elbiler this year,” Nils Sødal of the Norwegian Automobile Federation (NAF) told NTB. “Prospective buyers face an uncertain future.”

Diesel-fueled cars and models that don’t meet new restrictions on emissions were the losers last year. That was also blamed for a 6.8 percent decline in new car registrations last year, to 147,929.

Car dealer Gumpens Auto Vest in Kristiansand is just one of those in Norway seeing a huge shift in the market. “We plan to sell 24,000 cars this year,” Morten Sogn of Gumpens told state broadcaster NRK on Thursday. “Of those, 14,000 will be electric cars.” Sales of electric cars, once dominated by drivers in Oslo, have also risen in outlying areas, as recharging stations also expand around the country.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund