|Fig. 1: Tax Breaks on Electric Vehicles. (Source: E. Xue - after McKinesy. )|
Electric vehicles, defined as vehicles for which an electric motor is the primary source of propulsion, are a potential solution to reducing our worldwide carbon footprint.  These vehicles are hailed as more efficient and environmentally friendly than their combustion engine counterparts due to the engine's ability to convert 60%, compared to 20%, of their fuel to energy.  But the electric vehicles' ability to gain traction and market share is dependent not only on the technology itself, but also on the government policies and the original equipment manufacturers.
Norway poses as an example for how electric vehicles can become more widespread due to government influences. Norway has also incentivized the purchase of electric vehicles by making them cheaper than their gas-guzzling counterparts.  This is done through a variety of government subsidies, exemption from purchase tax, VAT, toll road charges, registration, and annual circulation tax.  Norway's system has it so "it's constructed to make the least-polluting cars the most attractive," states head of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association, Christina Bu. 
Norway's proportion of entirely electric vehicles remains unmatched at 2% of the number of vehicles that exist in the country. And this figure is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, with one in five vehicle sales being that of an electric vehicle.  There is an environmental consciousness component that drives these sales as well. For 29% of Norwegians, the chance to reduce their carbon footprint is the primary reason for the purchase of an electric vehicle.  For others, it could be the benefits of getting parking permits in dense urban areas, or the option to drive in the carpool lane during rush hour. 
Beyond the government, the purchase of electric vehicles has also increased due to the competitiveness of vehicles being released on the market today. Almost every major original equipment manufacturer (such as BMW and Nissan) has come out with a plan to roll out fully or partially electric powered vehicles in the near future.  The number of electric vehicle launches has doubled from 2012 to 2013, and the number is expected to grow by 50% in the next few years.  The price for electric vehicle has also decreased from recent technological innovation. Due to the economies of scale, the price of battery production has decreased over the past 5 years. Lightweight carbon fiber has also lowered the overall weight of electric vehicles, allowing them to go further on each charge.  OEMs and suppliers are also investing heavily in production platforms that allow the cost of manufacturing to further decrease. 
In order to support the sheer number of electric vehicles on the road, the next challenge will be to build the vehicle-charging infrastructure to keep up with the growth in sales of electric vehicles. Even Norway is short on public charging spots, with only 700 in Oslo, the capital.  But the future is promising. Utility companies are looking at ways to use smart grid technology to streamline the vehicle charging process and prevent energy overloads.  This technology will also help charging stations figure when are the best times to throttle back power. 
© Evelyn Xue. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 "Electric Vehicles in Europe," Amsterdam Roundtable Foundation, April 2014.
 D. Jolly, "Norway Is a Model for Encouraging Electric Car Sales," New York Times, 16 Oct 15.
 G. Pasaoglu et al, "Analysis of European Mobility Surveys and Their Potential to Support Studies on the Impact of Electric Vehicles on Energy and Infrastructure Needs in Europe," Technol. Forecast. Soc. 87, 41 (2014).
 "Evaluating Electric Vehicle Impacts and Consumer Charging Behaviors - Experiences From Six Smart Grid Investment Grant Projects," U.S. Department of Energy, December 2014.