Norway Surpasses Ambitious Car CO2 Goal, 3 Years Early

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CC BY-SA 2.0. David Villarreal Fernández

Norway has long been way out in front of the electric car transition, not least because this oil state would rather like to export its oil—and hence provided very generous subsidies to reduce domestic consumption through electric vehicle adoption.

Yesterday brought not one, but two headline stories across my radar emphasizing just how far this little Nordic nation has come. Firstly, Electrek reports that plug-in vehicles accounted for 52% of Norwegian new car sales in December. Meanwhile, Cleantechnica reports that the country has reached its 2020 official goal—considered almost unreachable when announced— for passenger vehicle emissions of 85 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer three years early!

It's worth noting, however, that headlines of Norway reaching "emissions goals from transportation" are a little misleading for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, the goal refers to emissions per passenger kilometer in new cars—that's not the same as the whole car fleet, and it's certainly not the same as the overall transportation sector. On the one hand, the many older gasoline cars still on the road—as well as the new gas cars being sold likely have much higher emissions than their official figures—suggest there's a long, long way to go before 85 grams becomes the norm across all cars in Norway. Secondly, and I hope Lloyd will buy me a pint for pointing this out, cars are (gasp!) not the only form of transportation.

No doubt, the astoundingly fast growth of electric vehicles in Norway has tended to hog the headlines. However, from massive investments in bike superhighways to Oslo excluding cars from the city center, there's actually good reason to hope that the EV transition is just the tip of a much greener, cooler (sorry!) iceberg. Heck, the country's capital even offers citizens $1,200 towards the purchase of an electric cargo bike!

Still, even the top-line numbers are encouraging news on this front. And given that diesel cars—once popular in Norway—are now in last place in terms of sales, we can hope that particulate emissions, smog and black carbon will be falling too.