Norway hits 55% plug-in car sales in March!

nissan leaf norway photo
CC BY-SA 2.0 David Villarreal Fernández

Meanwhile, gas-powered cars made up only 20% of the market...

Earlier today, I wrote about plug-in car sales in America for March. The numbers were indeed encouraging, but there's a lot of room to grow. And nowhere is that more apparent than Norway, where Cleantechnica reports that pure battery-electric and/or hydrogen fuel cell cars made up a whopping 37% of new car sales in March. Add plug-in hybrids to the mix, and 55% of all new cars sold in the country have the potential to run a reasonable amount of their daily driving 100% emission free. (They also get the benefit of Norway's ample renewables output as they do so!) Meanwhile, gas cars—which made up 26% of the market last March—were down to 20%. And diesel was down to just 16%.

This is why electric car sales are so interesting to me. While everyone focuses on short-term growth curves and the tiny fraction of the market currently captured, Norway is proof positive that things can change fast once you have broad social acceptance, word-of-mouth enthusiasm, and the basic infrastructure in place to keep these cars moving.

Given that Norway's success was based on strong government support, I don't think we should expect a similar scenario in the United States overnight. But costs are coming down, and range, quality and choice are going up. We're going to hit a point in the not too distant future where government subsidies are largely irrelevant. Plug-in cars will simply become more popular because they'll be a better, more cost effective choice.

Of course, as Lloyd is always good at pointing out, plug-in cars are still giant bloody cars. So we should hope that a shift to plug-ins goes hand-in-hand with a broader move toward people-centric planning and communities. But here too, Norway has a lot to offer—with Oslo offering $1,200 for residents towards purchasing a cargo bike, and working to remove cars from the city center entirely.

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