Norwegian MPs push for all cars to be electric in 10 years

Norway’s Liberal Party has suggested that the country make a full switch to electric cars by the year 2025, ridding its roads entirely of diesel and gasoline powered vehicles over the next 10 years – an initiative Bellona fully supports.

“By 2025, it is entirely possible to fully eliminate cars that run on diesel and gas, and completely switch to ecological alternatives,” said Ola Elvestuen of the parliament’s Liberal Party and chair of the legislature’s Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment, the Russian new portal Novaya Izvestiya reported.

Elvestuen’s most recent comments echo statements he made at Portland, Oregon’s electric vehicle EV Roadmap 8 conference on August 4.

While there, he delivered a keynote speech, “EV Policies in Norway: Market Transformation to Renewable Energy,” that underscored the crucial role electric cars should play in reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions.

Elvestuen’s comments in the US dovetailed with US President Obama’s August 4 role out of the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut US power station emission by nearly a third under 2005 levels within the next 15 years.

Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency mandate gave the US climate efforts biting teeth in the run up to the UN COP21 climate talks in Paris scheduled for December. Those fangs were sharpened only two weeks later when Obama announced a 40 to 45 percent cut in national methane emissions from 2012 levels within the next 10 years.

The methane leakage restrictions on the oil, gas and fracking industries take on one of the most potent, so-called “short lived” climate gasses. Methane is 28 to 36 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, contributing to global warming. Obama will be visiting Alaska on August 31 in a four day visit devoted to the impact of climate change on the state.

While in Portland, Elvestuen said Norway may be unique in its ability to take advantage of electric cars, as the country already generates 97 percent of its electricity from renewable hydroelectric sources.

But in the race to present new commitments to a hoped-for accord in Paris that will hopefully elicit climate cuts from all 190 nations in attendance, Norway’s clean power industry brings nothing particularly new to negotiations – except for transport industry cuts.

Elvestuen told Green Car Reports that a third of Norway’s carbon emissions come from transportation – and those emissions must be eliminated if Norway is to reach it’s international commitment to slash emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels over the next 15 years.

According to Elvestuen’s most recent remarks, the number of electric cars on the road in the country is on a steady rise: In May 2014 marked 10.9 percent of all cars on Norwegian roads were electric. By May 2015, that percentage had jumped to 15.5 percent.

The increased figures are due in no small part to incentives for electric car use, like exemption from Norway’s notoriously high road tolls, free battery charging stations, and, exemptions to travel on roadways restricted to traditional automobiles, and government tax incentives, Elvestuen noted to the portal.

Elvestuen’s was quoted by Novaya Izvestiya as saying Norway already has the necessary basis to make the wholesale switch to electric cars. By next year, he said it’s realistic to see a quarter of all cars in Norway operating on electricity and by 2020, a half.

“We don’t plan to implement any strict compulsory measures,” said Elvestuen. “The ‘stick-and-carrot’ approach in its mildest for will help realize the task at hand.”

As the first organization to bring an electric car to Norway in 1988, Bellona supports the initiative of Elvestuen’s party, and thinks even more stringent measures should be considered if the country intends to take its climate commitments seriously.

Frederic Hauge, Bellona’s president, in the Murmansk Region town of Nickel with a Tesla Model S. (Photo: Thomas Nilsen for Bellona)

In March of last year, Bellona President Frederic Hauge drove a Tesla Model S from Norway to Murmansk, Russia in the first known trip of its kind.

“I don’t see anything unusual about the fact that electric cars have gained such popularity in a nation as rich in oil nation as Norway,” said Hallstein Havåg, Bellona’s policy and research director.

Even through the country is one of the world’s top oil and gas exporters, it relies on hydroelectric sources for energy.

But half the country’s demands are nonetheless met by fossil fuels, said Havåg, thanks to the transport industry, which is the country’s single biggest emitter of greenhouse gasses. Havåg asserted that the only solution to that was the electrification of the entire industry.

He said electric cars are pointing things in the right direction, but other developments need to be placed on the front burner.

”The increase in electric cars in the last few years has led to significant decreases in the volume of harmful exhaust in large cities,” he said.

But he also suspected that the huge popularity of electric cars was not entirely based on environmental concerns, and that a large number of Norwegian’s were making the switch due to the government incentives mentioned by Elvestuen.

Plus, noted Novaya Izvestiya, the Norwegian capitol of Oslo forbids diesel vehicles from entering the city center on certain days of the week. Other large Norwegian cities are following suit.

Other reforms that would position Norway favorably for a full conversion to electric cars and emissions slashing in the transport sector would include the construction of high speed electric rail lines, and better city planning to reduce reliance on automobile transport. Central and regional governments have allocated funds for these reforms.

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