Why Norway is the world leader of the EV revolution
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When Mazda introduced its new electric vehicle prototype vehicle they chose to unveil it in Norway, which has powered its way to being the world leader of the EV revolution.
The Japanese carmaker invited 40 of the world’s car journalists, including Driven, to Oslo for a sneak peek at the technology behind its entry into the EV market.
The EV on a CX-30 chassis was a prototype, Mazda stressed, with the actual vehicle to be unveiled next month. The first EV model is due to go on sale next year, thought it could be early 2021 before it arrives at Kiwi car yards.
Norway is at the forefront of the EV upsurge, with the world’s highest proportion of EVs per capita - driven by an ambitious target to stop sales of fossil-fuelled cars by 2025.
A survey of Norwegian EV owners found that most drivers’ daily average journey was 50km, Mazda corporate communications general manager Ayumu Doi told Driven in Oslo.
Fifty-four per cent of EV owners have two cars, with an internal combustion engine vehicle in the garage as well.
As New Zealand grapples with a feebate scheme to accelerate EV sales, there is plenty to learn from the little Scandinavian nation with a population just 500,000 higher than ours.
Sweeter carrots, sharper stick
The New Zealand Government’s proposed fuel-efficient vehicle policy features a relatively mild carrot-and-stick approach to newly imported vehicles, imposing a fee on high emission vehicles and offering subsidies for more efficient models.
The policy would make some cars up to $8000 cheaper - while gas guzzlers would be $3000 more expensive.
But the coalition Government has stopped short of putting any of its money where the Green Party’s mouth is. The scheme is designed to be revenue-neutral to taxpayers – with the costs imposed on the heavy polluters used to offset the subsidies.
You can’t help but think that Kiwis’ love for SUVs and utes will require a carrot the size of Ohakune’s to get them to seriously consider an EV as their next vehicle. Norway, on the other hand, has spent a fortune over decades to green its vehicle fleet – yes they’re the world-leader but it comes at a huge price.
One 2014 study estimated that each EV sale cost the Norwegian government NZ$12,400 in subsidies. By the end of last year the country had 200,000 registered EVs, suggesting a total subsidy cost of around $NZ2.5 billion.
Consider that New Zealand has a smaller population than Norway - but about 1 million more vehicles - and it’s enough to make Associate Transport Minister and EV evangelist Julie Anne Genter reach for a stiff drink.
Fortunately Norway can afford to go greener (the economy is one of the world’s strongest) – and ironically the country’s wealth is based largely on oil exports. To visit Norway is to witness an EV utopia – Oslo is teeming with Teslas, Nissan Leafs and BMW i3s. It’s the legacy of a movement that began way back in 1990 when an import tax was first abolished for EVs.
Norway’s lesson for New Zealand is that the carrot needs to be much sweeter - and the stick sharper – to really drive consumer change.
As an example of their ‘polluter pays’ principle in action, a petrol engine VW Golf worth $21,500 is slapped with more than $14,000 in taxes, including VAT ($7000), levies for carbon dioxide ($3750), nitrogen oxide ($250) and a weight tax ($2500).
The taxes push the sticker price to $35,000 – while a VW e-Golf swerves all those extra costs and sells for $30,590.
The carrots continue after the proud new EV signs the paperwork: free public parking, toll roads and ferry connections, the use of bus and shared traffic lanes and free use of the country’s 10,000 and growing battery charging sites (although EV owners now pay half of the annual road licencing cost).
Most Norwegians finish work at 4pm and it’s commonplace to do your grocery shopping while taking advantage of a nearby charging station for a battery top-up.
To boost corporate uptake, the company car tax is reduced by 50 per cent for EVs.
Meanwhile petrol and diesel vehicle owners face hefty fuel taxes.
The numbers tell the story of Norway’s EV revolution: in June this year EV sales accounted for 57 per cent of new car sales (including a whopping 3000 Tesla Model 3s alone).
From January to June this year just under half of all cars sold were EVs, making Norway the global leader in per-capita electric car sales by a wide margin.
The surge is impressive - in 2013 EV sales were at just 5.5 per cent of new vehicles.
Mazda’s new EV tipped to have 250km range
Mazda believes its new EV offering will be a strong enough performer to convert drivers of gas guzzler to the benefits of going electric.
The new Mazda EV has a relatively small battery, with total electric power of 35.5. kWh (compared to a Nissan Leaf’s 40kWh) in the form of a water-cooled lithium ion battery. Maximum output is 105kw/265Nm and Mazda is confident the battery will have a life span of about 160,000km.
The carmaker is keeping specific details of its battery close to its chest - and has yet to divulge the expected range for the pure EV but expect it to be around 250km (that’s five times the average Norwegian EV owner’s daily requirements). The company has confirmed it will also offer a range-extending EV with a rotary engine.
Mazda believes the rotary engine's small size, combined with a high power output, is the best way to combat prospective EV buyers’ “range anxiety” – the fear that an EV won’t handle longer trips.
Mazda says opting for a smaller battery is environmentally responsible and also invites drivers to think realistically about the range they really require in a vehicle.
Mazda’s executive officer in charge of vehicle development, Hiroyuki Matsumoto, told Driven in Oslo that the perception that bigger was better in an EV battery was not necessarily accurate.
“If you’re going to use the EV, what’s your real driving range that you need, and we hope to bring an understanding up to that - perhaps giving a shift to some of the public opinion that’s out there.”
Matsumoto says Mazda has focused on delivering one EV technology platform to feature across a range of options designed to meet customers’ differing needs in relation to range and vehicle use.
The carmaker is bullish about the new EV’s potential to convert drivers of a traditional internal combustion engines to a cleaner, greener future.
You could say they’re making up for lost time by committing to its ‘Well-to-Wheel’ policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – the CO2 produced both in the manufacturing process of vehicles as well as from the tailpipe – to 50 per cent of 2010 levels by 2030 and to 90 per cent by 2050.
To achieve this Mazda expects its entire range will be electrified by 2030, with 95 per cent of its cars featuring some form of hybrid powertrain. The remaining 5 per cent will be full-electric options.
At the same time Mazda remains defiantly supportive of the need to continue to improve internal combustion engines, noting that EV vehicles’ contribution to saving the planet depends on how cleanly produced the electricity to charge them is.
Another factor in Norway’s success is that the electricity used to power EVs is 98 per cent renewable, mainly from hydropower (comparable to New Zealand’s 80 per cent renewable electricity).
More details about Mazda’s new EV are expected to be unveiled at next month’s Tokyo Motor Show.