Norway is pretty over the internal combustion engine. More and more electric vehicles are quietly cruising the roads in the Scandinavian country that got rich off oil. And in 2018, the country’s electric car sales hit a new world record.
Last year, nearly a third of cars sold in Norway were electric, according to new data the Norwegian Road Federation announced at a conference on Tuesday, as reported by Reuters. That continues the fastest per capita shift from gas-powered vehicles to electric ones anywhere in the world, all as part of Norway’s effort to combat climate change. The model the country is using to spur the transition won’t necessarily work everywhere, but it does show that policies that reduce barriers to buying more expensive electric vehicles can work.
According to Reuters, the findings show that 31.2 percent of all cars sold in Norway last year were electric, a major uptick over the 20.8 percent share electric cars had in 2017 and the paltry 5.5 percent market share they had in 2013.
“It was a small step closer to the 2025 goal,” Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen, head of the NRF, said according to Reuters.
The 2025 goal is the point at which Norway plans to phase out the sale of gas-powered cars by. The huge growth in electric car sales has come thanks to a suite of policies implemented by the Norwegian government that include tax breaks, no tolls, free parking, and access to bus lanes among other perks. The itty bitty island of Finnoy has the highest rate of electric car adoption in the world thanks to the no toll fees, which saves residents an astounding $6,000 annually.
So yes, good policy works. But Norway is also one of the richest country’s in the world, and tiny to boot. The country saw 147,929 vehicles sold in total in 2018. In the U.S., more than 17.3 million cars were sold in 2017 of which about 200,000—1.15 percent—were electric. Similarly lopsided ratios in favor of combustion engines are in play in China and other major auto markets around the globe. And in the U.S., things could backslide further as the Trump administration works to weaken fuel efficiency standards and fights California over its no-emissions vehicle exemption (though that’s a fight the administration could very well lose).
That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, though. Other countries and cities have ambitious plans for electric cars, too, though not quite on Norway’s level. Spain has a plan to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2040. Ditto for the UK. Even China wants to get in on ending the combustion engine. These are all well and good, but if you want to go full galactic brain, may I suggest banning all cars to really address climate change.