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Norway has been the poster child for the electric vehicle transition. EVs have outpaced gasoline-fueled cars in sales for the past few years, encouraged by generous subsidies and an expansive charging network. However, the country is beginning to realize the combustion versus electric struggle doesn’t exist in a vacuum and impacts society at large.
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The Norwegian government’s efforts to make electric cars more affordable and easier to own, even relative to taking public transportation. The Scandinavian country already had one of the lowest rates of public transportation usage in Europe, but the situation is getting even worse. Vox looked into how the state-encourage EV push is cutting off resources for public transportation agencies:
The effect of EV adoption on public transportation has been a particular concern for Norway’s cities because boosting transit ridership has been a linchpin of local mobility strategies. Bergen, for instance, opened its first light rail line in 2010, and Trondheim overhauled its bus fleet in 2019. But because generous EV incentives make driving cheaper, they make public transportation relatively less cost-competitive.
Worse, EV promotions have shrunk the funding available to invest in transit improvements because Norwegian public transportation budgets are partly funded through the road tolls that the national government exempted EV owners from paying. As more Norwegians purchased EVs, transit revenue fell, threatening major investments like a new metro line in Oslo. “One of my primary concerns is that because we are subsidizing EVs through the cheaper toll roads, we don’t have the money to pay for big transit infrastructure projects,” said Eivind Trædal, an Oslo city councilmember who until a few weeks ago led the city’s council’s environment and transportation committee.
While Norway’s cities have had access to fund large-scale projects, local leaders are still making a sizable effort to encourage people to get out of their cars and reduce traffic. Oslo, the country’s capital, has built bicycle lanes, widened sidewalks and removed parking spots by the thousands. In all, it’s a cautionary tale not to forget that the shift to EVs is meant to reduce carbon emissions, and using public transport is still more environmentally friendly than driving any vehicle. Be sure to read the entire piece at Vox.