Despite robust growth and record levels of electric vehicle sales in many of the largest automobile markets, combustion engines still dominate passenger car sales around the world. Plug-in electric vehicles accounted for just 2.6 percent of total passenger car and light vehicle sales/registrations last year, with just eight countries reporting a share of 5 percent or higher. Norway was the most notable exception at 56 percent, with Iceland, Sweden and Finland also featuring in the top 5 countries – a testament to the quick adoption of electric cars in nordic countries. China, which is by far the largest market for electric cars in terms of unit sales, ranked seventh behind Portugal with a share of 5.6 percent.
While Norway’s policy measures (e.g. tax exemptions, toll exemptions and other incentives) did prove highly effective in promoting electric cars, the Norwegian model cannot be easily transferred to other countries. First and foremost, the country imposes hefty vehicle import duties and car registration taxes, making cars significantly more expensive than say in the United States. By waiving these duties for electric vehicles, Norway is effectively subsidizing EV purchases at a level that a larger country such as the U.S. couldn’t afford. Secondly, Norway is a very wealthy country (ironically thanks to its oil reserves) with a high level of income. According to Norway's national statistical institute, the country’s median household income after taxes was around $54,000 in 2018, which is roughly level with the United States but more than twice as high as the EU average.