Norway is 1750km long. In comparison, New Zealand is 1600km. It's mountainous, big parts of the country are remote and the weather can be severe. There are 5.4 million people.
And in January, 83.7 per cent of all the new cars they bought were electric. Another 7 per cent were hybrids. Those EV sales were up from 64.5 per cent in 2021. At this rate, there'll be no new petrol car sales three years ahead of 2025, when it will become illegal to sell them anyway.
Here, many people say it's too hard to change the transport system because of our special geographical and demographic challenges. Too long and thin, not enough people, an agricultural economy, too many hills. In fact, New Zealand is almost exactly like Norway in all these respects, except they have more snow.
So how did Norway become the world leader in EVs, while our biggest-selling new cars are fossil-fuel double-cab utes?
First in means best dressed: tax exemptions for low polluters were introduced in 1990. Our feebate scheme has just started and it still generates nitwit opposition.
EVs were given toll exemptions, access to bus lanes, free parking, free charging, free passage on car ferries. Local manufacturers produced micro-EVs like the Buddy, Think City and more recently the Paxster. Tiny cars, ideal for retail deliveries, local shopping, postal services. You can drive a Paxster all day, protected from the rain, for the equivalent of 0.7 litres of diesel.
New Zealand Post has 400 Norwegian Paxsters. Which begs the question: Why haven't other companies done the same?
Fast chargers for public use line city streets and are installed in pairs every 50km in the countryside. Oslo, the capital, even has an enormous EV-only underground car park with a charger for every park. To help with charging at home, developers must make new buildings "charging ready" and landlords cannot stop tenants installing a charger.
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"Sometimes I wonder why other countries are so slow," says Christina Bu, secretary general of the Norwegian EV Association. "The technology is here."
It's not just about emissions. For all the reasons – congestion, road safety, public health – Norway has designed quieter, cleaner, more pleasant cities. Which means Norwegians are also being encouraged to drive less. Some early EV incentives have been rolled back and on-street parking has been removed from the Oslo city centre.
It's not just transport: construction is also being electrified, so building sites are quieter. And this isn't a Scandi thing; there's nothing inherently Norwegian about any of it.
All the reasons Norway leads the world with EVs boil down to just one reason: the Government led the way. It did everything it could – with cost, infrastructure and preferential treatment – to make buying an EV the obvious choice.
It didn't "support all options" or leave it to the climate consciousness of manufacturers and consumers. Better cities don't just happen. They get there by design.
Design for Living appears weekly in Canvas magazine.