Norway became the first country in the world where the sale of electric cars has overtaken those powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines last year, with the German carmaker Volkswagen replacing Tesla as the top battery-vehicle producer, data shows.
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) made up 54.3% of all new cars sold in the Nordic country in 2020, a global record, up from 42.4% in 2019 and from a mere 1% of the overall market a decade ago, the Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said.
Seeking to become the first nation to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, oil-producing Norway exempts fully electric vehicles from taxes imposed on those relying on fossil fuels.
The policy has turned the country’s car market into a laboratory for carmakers seeking a path to a future without internal combustion engines, vaulting new brands and models to the top of bestseller lists in recent years.
While the sale of BEVs had broken the 50% mark in individual months, 2020 was the first time that fully electric cars outsold the combined volume of models containing internal combustion engines for a year as a whole.
“We’re definitely on track to reach the 2025 target,” said Oyvind Thorsen, the chief executive of OFV.
BEV sales accelerated in the final months of 2020, hitting their highest level for any single month in December, with a 66.7% share of the car market.
Volkswagen’s Audi brand topped the 2020 leaderboard with its e-tron sports utility and sportsback vehicles as the most sold new passenger cars in Norway last year, while Tesla’s mid-sized Model 3, the 2019 winner, was relegated to second place.
Electric vehicle sales are expected to continue to soar in 2021, according to industry analysts and car distributors, as more models are brought to the market.
“Our preliminary forecast is for electric cars to surpass 65% of the market in 2021,” said Christina Bu who heads the Norwegian EV Association, an interest group. “If we manage that, the goal of selling only zero-emission cars in 2025 will be within reach.”
Tesla’s mid-sized sports utility vehicle, the Model Y, is due to reach the Norwegian market this year, as are the first electric SUVs from Ford, BMW and Volkswagen.
By contrast, cars with diesel-only engines have tumbled from a peak of 75.7% of the overall Norwegian market in 2011 to just 8.6% last year.
New car sales in the country last year were 141,412, of which 76,789 were fully electric.
While the electric market share will keep rising, there is uncertainty around how many cars producers will allocate to Norway as European demand is increasing, said Harald Frigstad, the chief executive of the Norwegian car importer Bertel O Steen.
The seller of Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz as well as the Kia, Peugeot, Opel, Citroen, DS and Smart brands, predicted about 70% of its sales would be of fully electric models in 2021.