This is part two of the “Climate Diaries,” an ongoing CBS News series examining climate change and the steps some are taking to lessen its impact.
OSLO, Norway — A great, national and expensive experiment is underway in Norway where a quarter of all new car sales have ‘E’ plates — for electric.
Lief Halvorden admits he’s one of the lab rats. He’s done the math. With all the government incentives to go electric, he says he’d be crazy not to.
“This car will be for free.”
By ‘free,’ Halvorden means he can basically drive for nothing. By the time the government has waived the whopping 25 percent sales tax and the road registration fee, the sticker price for electric cars can actually be less then their gas or diesel equivalents.
Once on the road, other benefits kick in, too. No highway tolls. Free ferry rides. Free charging at government-subsidized plug-in points, where the power comes from clean hydro-sources.
The old criticism that electric cars have limited range — about 150 miles per charge — becomes a non-issue when you can plug in almost everywhere.
For commuter Anita Wiborg, there’s another e-car incentive: access to bus and taxi lanes. “I can save up to an hour actually if [traffic is] really bad.”
Electric cars might work in Norway — it’s a small country, with relatively short driving distances, and plenty of cash to throw at the problem. But what about bigger places with less cash to throw around? The Norwegians say they have learned one thing here: build them, and they will come.
So many have come, the government will start phasing out the subsidies, according to Norway’s deputy environmental minister Lars Lunde.
“When you get to the real big market share of course the benefit has to be phased out,” said Lunde. He added that it is their intention to eventually be 100 percent electric.
What the Norwegians have done is change the image of electric cars. According to Halvorden’s daughter, they’ve made them seem, well, cool.