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Following the European release of electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Motor Inc.’s fully electric Model S in August, the expensive luxury car has defied expectations and rocketed to the top of sales charts in Norway. The Model S is the latest from electric vehicle front runner Tesla Motors whose vehicles have been the attention of a great deal of demand since it introduced its very first model, the Tesla Roadster, in 2006, making it the first all-electric sports car. However, one major hindrance to Tesla’s achieving anything nearing market dominance has always been its high price, the luxury vehicles which used to routinely go for over €80 000.

The Model S, however, was Tesla’s first true attempt at mass producing a vehicle aimed at reaching a wider customer base than its previous luxury model. Upon its release in the United States, the Model S, which retails for just over €51 000 in the United States, was already a significant milestone in Tesla’s evolution, selling upwards of 14 000 units in the US alone in its first year of deliveries compared to the Roadster’s sales which amounted to roughly 2 500 units over four years.

Nevertheless, few would have expected the extent of Tesla’s success in Norway, where the Model S has already overtaken the country’s leading seller the gas-fuelled Volkswagen Golf, achieving a remarkable 5.1% share of the Norwegian auto market. Despite beginning at a retail price of €74 000, with the country’s notoriously expensive auto market making the car €25 000 more expensive than in the United States, second-hand Model S’s have already reached a staggering €96 000 in some cases.

With the seemingly ludicrous retail prices of these luxury EVs ruling out all but the most wealthy or truly committed electric vehicle enthusiasts in most markets, what is the secret to Tesla’s enormous success in Norway? The answer, effective automotive tax legislation. Norway’s government has set in place legislation which levies vehicle taxes on fuel-burning cars based on engine size, a factor which encourages car buyers to direct their attention towards either vehicles with smaller conventional engines or full-EVs and hybrids. As a result of these taxes, a brand new, vehicle with a conventional engine of the same size would retail for up to €148 000. Add to this the not insignificant costs of fuelling a gas-fuelled car with Norway’s gas prices hardly looking likely to decrease, the initial shock some buyers may feel at first glance of the Model S’s retail price, may ultimately come to feel unwarranted when they add up the savings in store for them over the years with a car that does not need to be filled up at the pump every day, but one which you can just plug in at home and take advantage of the notably lower price of electricity.

Source: Article from Reuters 

Read More: In-depth report by the Globe & Mail 

A new study published by the EV Project, a U.S. Energy Department funded research project operated by electric vehicle charging station manufacturer Ecotality, provides a comprehensive overview of today’s electric vehicle drivers in the United States. The study encompasses results from 8,000 EV drivers over the entirety of the project’s four year history. The study’s findings have been compiled in an revealing infographic. The study found that the electric vehicle market in the US had surged dramatically in only a single year, boasting an increase of 35,000 units sold in 2012 over 2011 totals. Furthermore, the study confirmed the assumption that EV purchases are generally limited to more wealthy consumers, due to their relatively high cost. While this study is merely focused on the US market it does, nonetheless, provide a valuable insight into the evolution of the EV market, from the early-adopter heavy early years to its present phase of initial expansion.

 Source: The Wall Street Journal reports on the study’s results 

The most commonly stated issue holding back public acceptance of electric vehicles continues to be range anxiety, the fear that one’s car battery will run out of power mid-drive leaving the driver stranded on the side of the road. Despite numerous studies which have shown that most commuters hardly ever exceed 40-50 km/day, commuters have somehow developed a certainty that range estimates below 100 km/charge will never prove sufficient for the needs of a daily commuter. A group of Norwegian researchers have set out to combat these concerns not through development of battery technology but, rather, a novel approach which seeks to inform and educate consumers as well as develop additional features and tools to assist in battery management.

Researchers attempted to address these concerns through a wide range of complementary strategies, these included recommendations and conclusions made based on an in-depth study of driver behavior, as a result of which researchers concluded that the ideal EV driver is one with at least a year’s worth of experience driving an EV. The researchers determined that a driver’s familiarity with the unique traits and limitations of EVs was crucial in determining their comfort level with driving the vehicles, particularly under the taxing conditions posed by the harsh Norwegian climate. Researchers also recommended that automakers and related automotive technology companies focus their attention on developing more advanced means of tracking and reporting battery usage statistics, in order to not only assist drivers in monitoring battery levels but also in planning trips and charging breaks, through apps and tools which combine GPS route planning technology with detailed automatic scheduling of battery charging intervals.

Alongside the group’s research into combating range anxiety, the researchers also addressed the role which EVs will play in public transportation and freight hauling in the future. Additionally, researchers engage in discussions with knowledgeable EV critics regarding concerns of the overall greenness or sustainability of EVs when integrated into today’s non-clean-energy systems. Rather than aiming for new technological patents or conclusive recommendations, this study sought to provide the grounds for further discussion in public forums, serving as a primer for the public to combat misinformation regarding such issues as range anxiety and energy supply.

Source: EV World summary of the study 

Read more: More information on the Norwegian research program, headed by Norwegian research organization SINTEF.

Despite an enthusiastic push towards furthering electric vehicle development and encouraging public adoption in recent years the Chinese auto markets continue to show a strong preference for traditional, gas-fueled vehicles. Sales figures from 2012 already revealed the reality behind China’s lagging EV sales and led many to suspect that Chinese government officials would begin to curb their tax incentive and subsidy policies in coming years, which proved to be somewhat accurate as Chinese officials have chosen to shift incentive policies from the national to a regional level and have not renewed the national EV incentive plan which expired at the end of last year. 

However, recent reports from the China Daily suggest that this lack of support may be spreading even further. The newspaper recently reported on a new plan to waive vehicle quota registration requirements for new rental cars, in an effort to reduce overall air pollution by limiting the number of cars on the city’s roads by encouraging private citizens to rent cars for occasional use rather than buying a car of their own. This new legislation is similar to a plan proposed by the city government at the beginning of the year which would allow electric vehicle owners to take advantage of the same plan, an attempt to appeal to citizens on the basis of this freedom from the city’s strict quota restrictions which limit car use based on license plate number. However, in connection to this new legislation, authorities also hinted at the possibility of these quota restrictions being reapplied to electric vehicles in the near future, thus spelling an end to yet another of the more attractive side benefits to owning an electric vehicle for the city’s residents.

Source: EV World article on change in legislation 

Original China Daily article 

According to recent reports from England, UK lawmakers are reportedly reassessing the government’s present EV tax incentive schemes and debating their continuation. Under the current incentive scheme, introduced two years ago, buyers of new electric vehicles in the UK received a £5,000 subsidy in an effort to drive massive public adoption of emission-less vehicles in the lead up to the 2050 goal of ridding UK roads of nearly all non-clean vehicles. This subsidy policy came under renewed debate following a September, 2012 report from the Commons Transport Select  Committee which concluded that the majority of the £11 million of subsidy funds had gone towards enabling rich families to purchase a second vehicle.  The report included statements from industry experts who argued that the subsidy had been unsuccessful in actually changing the general belief that electric vehicles remained far too expensive to truly be considered as plausible alternatives to traditional, gas-fueled cars.

Drawing from these conclusions, government ministers have seemingly drawn the conclusion that rather than increasing the size of the present subsidy package they would instead scrap it altogether. A move to restrict incentive policies would be a notable change of direction for the UK government which has shown a strong commitment to greening transportation, devoting a total of £500 million to the development of green vehicles between 2015-2020. In addition to the £11 million already spent on the subsidy policy and a nationwide network of public charging points, totaling 1,600 points, the government had originally planned on setting aside a total of £30 million for subsidies.

News of these developments gave rise to an expected outcry from researchers, including the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) which determined that entirely removing tax incentives would come as a major blow to electric car manufacturers and set back the pace of EV adoption notably. While it remains unclear what the precise allocation of the £500 million support package will ultimately be, ministers reassured the public claiming to be fully committed to developing green transport along an ambitious yet “realistic” vision.

Source: Daily Mail article 

Read more: Commons Transport Select Committee report from September, 2012 

Transport Research Laboratory report 

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