Transportation. "Shall we drive?"
It's a gray Wednesday morning. But the car we are sitting in is red. And electric. Not a trace of exhaust is to be seen. A noisy petrol engine is one to hear.
For Ny Tid's journalist has been sent out to test Norway's most bought electric car – the "leaf". Ready to portray the ride, the undocumented journalist sits in the passenger seat of the four-wheel drive and waits for it to start.
Facsimile: Ny Tid edition 36 in 5 October.
And then: Without a sound, and with a steady turn, Norway's best-selling electric car suddenly rolls off. It turns out that the car has been on during the entire interview.
- In terms of safety, appearance and space, this is a car that is quite similar to petrol-powered cars. In terms of comfort, it is perhaps better than other cars I have driven.
This is what Harald B. Hagen, the sales consultant who has taken pity on Ny Tid's certificate-free journalist, says, so that she too will know how one of the new generation of electric cars actually behaves on the road. And this is to be said, as the new "car reviewer" I have become: On the outside, there is little that separates this car from other petrol donations that Ny Tid's journalist has previously been transported around in. Maybe apart from the fact that it is particularly nice where it takes care out in his metallic red suit. But the skin, or varnish, deceives. It has a solar panel on the roof. And zero CO2 emissions and silent movement still make the car different from its petrol-powered colleagues.
Now it sneaks silently and smoothly along the road, which at once seems free of holes and bumps. There is nothing to say about speed or driving comfort either. Like a small four wheeled spaceship, it carries us through an industrial area on Økern.
The feeling of being in a future vehicle is further enhanced as three blue dots appear on the car's dashboard when our driver brakes for a pedestrian.
- The symbol indicates that the car is charging when it rolls or brakes. The battery can also be charged during the drive, Hagen says.
The fact that the vehicle can not carry us further than 14-15 miles on hot days, and 8-12 miles on cold days, means that the Nissan Leaf will also often be "car number two" for families – we are told. Limited battery capacity and lack of space then have also made that electric cars have traditionally been a "second car", also actually called "wife car", for families who already have a gasoline donation.
This trend has not completely reversed, but Jan Erik Uthus, marketing manager at Nissan Norway, believes that there is a change in the user group.
- The buyer group here is considerably younger than for the other cars we sell. Another tendency is that more and more people are choosing to sell the car they already have, and use this as their only car. It is clear that people are more environmentally conscious now than they were before, says Jan Erik Uthus in Nissan Norway.
5 percent market share
After this Nissan electric car started sales in Norway in October last year, 2000 copies have been sold. General electric car sales also continue to rise in Norway: As many as 583 of 11.134 newly registered cars in September were electric, a tripling from the same month last year. Thus, for the first time, sales of electric cars accounted for more than 5 per cent of new car sales in Norway within a month.
So far this year, 3000 new passenger cars with electric motors have been registered, a total of 1750 more than in the same period last year. Thus, sales of electric vehicles have increased by 143 per cent.
At the same time, general new car sales declined by 5 per cent in September from the same month last year.
In addition, hybrid cars are also increasing: 4000 new hybrid cars have been registered so far this year (6 per cent market share), an increase compared to sales of 3000 in the same period in 2011.
Norway is referred to as one of the world's leading electric car countries. Compared to neighboring countries Sweden, Denmark and Finland, Norway is definitely at the top when it comes to annual sales of electric cars. It is estimated that there are approximately 8000 electric cars moving around on Norwegian roads, according to the Swedish Road Traffic Information Authority (OFV).
And the user groups are growing more and more. Last week, the Norwegian defense force used 10 electric cars for administrative use, while the ABC driving school, which is one of Norway's oldest driving schools, now uses electric cars in driving lessons. Means it the environmental awareness that drives us? No, not first and foremost, the Norwegian Electric Car Association believes.
- Driving an electric car is beneficial financially. And practical and environmentally friendly. For many, I think the economic aspect comes first. When you see that it works well with an electric car, there is no reason to replace it, says marketing manager in the Norwegian Electric Car Association, Sjur Stampe.
He himself has driven an electric car since 2007, and he swears by a Norwegian-made Buddy – which is actually made right next to us, on Økern. But he says that much of the reason why electric car sales skyrocket is adaptation to the buyer's needs. In Norway, there are a number of economic benefits to driving the emission- and noise-free electric cars:
Exemption from one-off and value-added tax on purchases. Free parking. Reasonable "fuel", ie electricity. Ability to run in the public domain. And lower cost of insurance.
All this has served as a motivation for many. In June, it became clear that the benefits of driving an electric car will continue for the next parliamentary period, until 2017, or until the number of electric cars on Norwegian roads reaches 50.000.
- Has the attitude towards electric cars changed in Norway?
- Only in the time I have driven an electric car, has it become more socially accepted to drive an electric car. While previously considered an eccentric in traffic, electric driving is becoming increasingly popular. Many people choose based on finances. When the cars become more usable, it is also easier to choose an electric car for more people, says Stampe in the Electric Car Association.
0 to 100 at 3,9
The time when electric cars were just a small two-seat vehicle, which was primarily suited for city driving, is over. When this year's car fair was held in Paris last weekend, one electric treat after the other was unveiled in front of drooling car enthusiasts worldwide.
Highest on the list of electric surprises was perhaps the "Mercedes SLS AMG Coupe Electric Drive": The emissions-free, silent, 740-horsepower machine can accelerate from a speed of 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3,9 seconds. Even certificate-free journalists realize it is fast. The German Mercedes car with gullwing doors is thus competing with the California-produced Tesla Roadster, which in recent years has become a favorite status symbol for young, rich men.
- The electric car has come to stay. Norway is a world leader when it comes to the sale and use of electric cars. The reason why many people choose an electric car, I think, is solely due to all the benefits that come with having an electric car. It does not pollute, does not make noise and is cheap to operate. There are simply few disadvantages to driving an electric car, says Stampe.
The large industrial nations and the major car manufacturers have begun to grasp the production of electric vehicles. Both Mitsubishi, Citroën, Nissan, Renault and Peugeot are committed to producing electric cars over the next few years. In Norway, the Nissan Leaf family car is a bestseller. Nissan Leaf was produced in Japan in 2010 and came on sale in Norway in October 2011. Jan Erik Uthus in Nissan Norway says that the Leaf owners are younger and clearly more environmentally conscious than they have been before.
- We have a clear goal that there will be a larger number of Nissan Leaf. The volume is increasing, and new models are also planned in the future, says Uthus.
Dropping the certificate
The government's climate report was presented in April. It says:
“Today's tax benefits for the purchase and use of clean zero emission cars will be continued over the next parliamentary period (2017), provided that the number of clean zero emission cars does not exceed 50.000. Other means of promoting zero emission cars, such as exemption from boom and ferry fees, access to public areas and free parking must be seen in the context of traffic trends in major cities. In making decisions on these instruments, the views of local authorities must weigh heavily. ”
And Bellona is positive:
- This will hopefully lead to more people wanting to replace their petrol or diesel-powered car with an electric one, says Martin Hviid Nielsen, who is a consultant at Bellona.
- Electric cars are a large and important solution in the future emission reduction, and they are here to stay. If we are to be able to cut 85 per cent of emissions between now and 2050, conversion to zero-emission vehicles such as electric cars, rather than fossil fuels, will be crucial. An electric car has no emissions of greenhouse gases, NOx or particles from the combustion process. Driving an electric car is good both for the local urban air environment, and for emissions globally. The electric car has clearly come to stay, says advisor Hviid Nielsen, to Ny Tid.
According to a new report from the American Worldwatch Institute, by the end of 2012, one billion vehicles will roll on the world's roads. Several countries, including the United States and Denmark, use tax breaks, free parking, and public charging stations as a lure for people to choose electrically.
- Every year, more and more people drive a car. People are transporting themselves more and more. But there are several ways to do this. The most important thing is that the transport that takes place should take place with means of transport that do not harm the environment, says Nielsen.
- But the production of electric cars is no less harmful to the environment than the production of petrol-powered cars?
- All links in the production of electric cars are just as harmful to the environment as the production of ordinary cars. But this is about waste management. You have to make sure that the waste is handled correctly when the car and battery are no longer to be used, says Nielsen.
According to figures from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, there are fewer young drivers in the cities. About 45 percent of men now choose to take a certificate when they turn 18. In women of the same age, the proportion who have a driver's license has fallen from 50 per cent in 1990 to 38 per cent in 2011. Nielsen believes the main reason for the decline in the certificate is the deferred need for car use.
- We are probably not on the way to a car-free society. Many people have a great need for the personal flexibility and transport options that a car provides. It is true that many young people are waiting to take the plunge, but this is probably related to the fact that people live more and more urban. There is no guarantee that these will not take the plunge when the situation changes, Nielsen says.
And then we are back to the Ny Tid journalist, who after a trip around Økern in an electric car passenger seat will no longer rule out taking the note. But the question is still whether it is worth the notes. ■
This is the introduction to the main issue in the weekly magazine Ny Tid's issue 36 05.10.2012. Read more in this week's issue, on sale in stores across the country. Get the edition sent for free by subscribing (Abo@nytid.no)or click here.