In fact, Norway just marked the sale of its 50,000th electric vehicle in April—months earlier than expected. To date this year, 1 out of every 5 cars sold has been battery-powered. Electric cars now account for nearly 3 percent of total cars in Norway, whereas they are a just fraction of a percent elsewhere.
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This concentration has been fueled by heavy tax breaks, subsidies, and privileges for purchasing and driving an electric car in Norway. It goes all the way back to an "a-ha" moment—literally—in the late 1980s, when environmentalist Frederic Hauge's foundation, Bellona, and the Norwegian pop group a-ha (known for hits like "Take on Me") collaborated to promote the nascent industry.
At the time, policymakers were motivated by a mix of environmentalism and envy. Neighboring Sweden had a flourishing auto industry, boasting world-beating automakers like Volvo and Saab. Norway was trying to encourage its own fledgling electric industry, featuring Pivco (later named Think), a company whose electric cars were featured at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics in Norway, which was purchased by Ford in the late 1990s, and later sold and shut down.
Norway's electric car market lived on, however, getting a second wind as global leaders began to recognize and regulate fossil fuel emissions in an effort to reduce pollution, carbon dioxide and harm to the environment.
While the country missed the boat in terms of fostering a global electric car juggernaut, its hydropower grid is becoming a juggernaut of its own.