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EV Charging Infrastructure Best Practice: What We Can Learn from Norway

83.7% of cars sold in Norway in January 2022 were electric. What’s the secret to Norway’s success?

ev charging learnings from norway

Norway is the EV capital of the world, and 83.7% of cars sold in Norway in January 2022 were electric. Despite famously making vast sums of money from North Sea Oil drilling in the second half of the 20th century, Norway has become a leader in sustainable travel. So what’s the secret to Norway’s success? In this guide, we’re going to explore what other countries can learn from the Norwegians, from investing in EV charging infrastructure to incentivising EV adoption, there’s plenty to cover.

Despite being one of the world’s coldest countries, and therefore not very suitable for battery operated electric vehicles (EVs), Norway has defied the odds to become the first country to see the sale of EVs overtake those powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines. No other country has more EVs per capita. 

The Norwegian government was also the first to announce a ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2025. 

As a result, Norway’s EV market is booming. In 2022, sales data reveals another record year – with 88% of all new cars sold being fully electric. Tesla overtook Volkswagen as the number one selling car brand after an 11 year reign.  

And in January of this year EVs took a massive 83.7% share, with plug-in models representing 19/20 of the top vehicles sold. Despite prior competition between fully electric and hybrid models, Norway’s 2022 budget reducing the tax benefit for hybrids, resulted in drivers moving towards pure electric – with hybrid sales market share falling from 19% to 6.6% in the same month. 

So, are Norwegians more passionate about going green than the rest of the world – or do they just like the incentives? Well, as you’d expect, Norway’s electric vehicle adoption is not down to one specific reason, but a mixture of domestic and economic policy and incentives. We’ll go into these in more depth further down, but they include:

  • Changing the car tax system
  • Heavily investing in EV charging infrastructure
  • Subsidising EV travel on ferries and toll roads 
  • Education and accessibility

It’s clear the Norwegian government had a clear strategy to achieve their goals of 100% zero-emission car sales by 2025.


Incentivising behaviour change

One of the key tools helping Norway establish EVs as the new normal is government incentives. In part, Norway’s high rate of electric vehicle adoption has been driven by the idea that “the polluter pays” when it comes to taxation.

In 1990 Norway removed purchase and import tax for zero emission vehicles, and in 2001, introduced a VAT exemption (yet to be lifted) – setting the market up perfectly for an EV revolution. 

The biggest impact on such rapid buyer behaviour change however is likely to have been Norway’s relatively high taxation of petrol and diesel vehicles – at 25%. Making zero emission vehicles the natural and more affordable choice than their counterparts, even if the import price is much higher. 

A host of other local and national government incentives for zero emission vehicle drivers have also no doubt helped with uptake, such as reduced road and ferry tolls, discounted public parking, widely available free public charging, use of the bus lanes, no registration tax on used car sales, no annual ownership tax, and no fuel tax. 

Norway is a country with a culture that values the outdoors, the environment and its stunning landscapes, promoting them to locals and tourists alike. As such, through a combination of carrot and stick incentives, they paved the way for success. What’s more, they backed this up with investment in communication and education around the benefits of EVs.

Education & Accessibility

The Norwegian government actively promotes the country’s many sustainable travel options to locals and visitors through state owned travel board Innovation Norway.  

It’s easy to rent an EV from most car rental firms throughout the country. You can even cruise the fjords, or go whale watching on electric powered boats, and use an electric cable car up a mountain. 


Investment in EV Charging infrastructure

Norway’s EV charging policy and excellent charge point network have also aided EV uptake – easing range anxiety and enabling drivers to visit most points of interest in the country without concern. Given the mountainous and often isolated terrain, this is particularly important. To support a network of more than 480,000 EVs there are now almost 17,000 charging stations across Norway, including more than 3,000 fast chargers. And you won’t need to travel more than 30 miles to find your nearest rapid charge point.

ev charging learnings from norway

A fast charging station has been installed on every main road in the country. More than 5,600 cars can fast charge at the same time – removing any concerns around queuing.

Enova, the Norwegian government body responsible for providing funding and advice for energy and climate projects, initially funded a 7 million euro EV infrastructure programme providing 1,900 charging points by 2011. And has provided support to charging infrastructure projects since. Most recently allocating NOK 50.5 million for fast charging infrastructure – with 230 stations installed so far. 

A large part of Norway’s EVSE investment strategy is also providing financial support for housing associations to buy and install chargers – with grants of 20-50% of the cost offered in several cities. Between 2017 and 2021 legislation establishing a “charging right” for people living in apartment buildings was introduced. In practice, this means that most motorists are never far from an EV charging point.

As another aspect of EV charging best practices in Norway, the majority of charge point operators provide 24/7 year-round support for customers and many now allow drivers to use the same RFID cards to roam between charge points, use payment terminals, QR-codes and offer drop-in solutions such as start/stop charging via SMS. 

The Norwegian Electric Car Association also provides members with a black charging chip, in action since 2014, making it possible to start, stop and pay for charging with many operators across the country – and is cheaper than using SMS. 

“Norway is a country with a widespread population, high mountains and a climate with snow and ice in the winters […] but it really does work, we have been able to build the (EV charging) infrastructure” – Nicholai Jorgensen, Mer Norway AS

Cheap & renewable energy

Norway’s national grid is powered by 99% renewable energy (wind, solar and hydro electric). Therefore the country’s EV charging infrastructure is powered by renewable energy.  

And Norway’s energy is not only clean, but cheap. The country’s low electricity prices result in further savings through EV ownership. You can expect to pay roughly 7.3 pence per Kwh versus around £1.46 per litre for petrol.


What can the UK learn from Norway’s EV adoption??

Charge point operators (CPOs) acting in the UK can take learnings around user experience. There have been technical difficulties with Norway’s public charging network, and limitations around payment options and the ability to roam. Participating in roaming agreements is essential for widespread adoption.  

In terms of user experience, it’s evidently crucial that CPOs invest in a resilient and reliable back office system, able to resolve faults quickly. And 24/7 user hotlines are essential for early users. It’s also important that hardware is high quality and can withstand bad weather – the cost of service calls to charging stations can easily outweigh up-front savings on cheap units. 

The UK government and public sector bodies also stand to learn a great deal from Norway.  

It clearly pays to offer consistent government grants, and tax incentives for EVs, rather than changing the rules every few years. In particular, increasing tax on fossil fuel vehicles is a successful way to make EVs fully cost competitive. 

The UK is in need of a national plan to increase the number of public charge points, ensuring the right chargers are in the right places – and also giving local authorities official guidance on how to encourage EV adoption.. With another record year in EV sales in the UK – the charging infrastructure has fallen behind, with an average of just 16 cars to one standard street charger. As shown in Norway, installing plenty of public fast and rapid charging sites mitigates both queue and range anxiety – core barriers to widespread EV adoption. 


Installing EV infrastructure in the UK

With recent studies such as Mer’s customer survey finding that almost 30% of drivers don’t have access to an EV home charger – there’s a clear need for an enhanced public network.

Fortunately, Mckinsey summarise the required to EV charging infrastructure perfectly:

“Prepare at the outset for speed and scale: this is perhaps the central conclusion to draw from Norway’s EV charging evolution.

Positioning for success in the quickly accelerating and evolving EV charging market often means creating a business from scratch while simultaneously and rapidly growing its market position and enhancing its capabilities. To achieve this, starting out with a comprehensive strategy is advisable. Ideally, this strategy is grounded in a deep understanding of everything from value pools to target segments and time investments, all based on specific signposts. Once a strategy is in place, well-defined commercial offerings tailored to each target segment can be established. Each offering should include a clear customer value proposition, pricing, and integrated customer journeys.

At the same time, robust operational capabilities should be built for everything from charger maintenance to contact center design. As Norway’s experience shows, selecting the appropriate charging point management system (CPMS), backend software, operating model (make versus buy), and hardware can be critical because they directly affect customer satisfaction. Optimal locations, layouts, grid availability, and charger mix at each location heavily influence capital expenditures. Likewise, a sound power procurement, trading, and hedging strategy working in tandem with rigorous on-site energy management is central to optimizing power costs. Finally, an agile organizational approach is fundamental to fully realizing all operational capabilities and scaling rapidly in the dynamic, transitioning EVCI landscape.”

Public sector bodies should look to work with a charge point operator  committed to the intelligent development of the market, aiming for sustainable growth and with a strong financial background.

As the charging operator market is still very young and changeable, certain operators may change mid contract due to buyout – local authorities should consider this when agreeing on a long-term contract.

See also our guides on Sweden’s EV Charging infrastructure and Germany’s EV charging challenges.

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