While I try to convince buyers in Australia that a green vehicle should be defined by both its low carbon emissions and its air pollution rating, a news item has popped up that puts this debate into perspective.
In Norway, an electric vehicle has become the highest selling car.
Looks like they have given up debating whether diesel vehicles threaten air quality and moved on to bigger and better things.
So, what’s going on in Norway?
The Tesla S is a revolution in plug-in electric cars. It’s not an ugly, tiny, slow electric car of old. It’s a high performance four door five-seater car with 500km range and acceleration to match the Holden V8 the police use.
It has none of the downsides of range, performance, looks or practicality typically associated with fully electric cars. It is equal or better than a fossil fuel car in most respects.
Ok… well yes there is a downside. The Tesla costs over $100 000 equivalent so it’s not cheap motoring. But taking into account running costs? Maybe over the longer term.
The strong appeal of the car, combined with generous government incentives (registration, free parking, driving in bus lanes) has Norwegians going crazy for the Tesla S. To the point they will pay a premium for a second hand one to avoid waiting times on a new one.
I think there could be a convergence happening that may help flick the switch on electric vehicles, especially in certain applications. As electric vehicle technology gets more advanced, the price comes down, the performance improves and the proposition becomes more attractive. It’s a virtuous circle.
The Tesla shows that electric vehicles can be a popular, practical option, and being a best seller makes people take notice, leading to even greater investment.
But at the same time renewable energy such as solar is becoming more cost competitive with fossil power. The cost of solar panels is falling around 25% per year. So while concerns about where the electricity is coming from are justified, they may be short-lived.
So what about Australia?
I doubt the Tesla will become the fastest selling car here. In addition to it not even being available here yet, the government incentives aren’t very strong.
But electric vehicles are ideal for low-speed stop-start applications such as delivery vehicles, garbage collection, street sweeping and plant and equipment. Electric vehicles in these applications is already happening overseas, whether hybrid electric or fully electric. Many of these vehicles don’t travel huge distances so could be recharged back at the depot using solar power. This no longer just a fantasy.
So while Australia might not enjoy the incentives offered by the Norwegian government, investment overseas can have a flow on effect to the rest of the world. The Tesla being the biggest selling car in any country sends a strong message about the future of electric vehicles, drives investment and innovation, and should help bring true low emissions vehicles a step closer for all.