Insights into EV ownership from Norway

NIssan LEAF Norway - Elbilforeningen (CC BY 2.0)

Anyone needing data on how electric drivers use their vehicles would be well-advised to look to Norway, the world’s undisputed EV capital. As of May, there were over 105,000 plug-in vehicles registered in the country.

A recent survey of 8,000 vehicle owners by the Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics found a number of insights that should be of interest to automakers, infrastructure providers and policymakers.

The survey found that buyers of pure EVs and buyers of PHEVs tend to have different transport needs, and different demographic profiles. This seems fairly obvious to most industry observers, but a number of automakers still seem to imagine that a PHEV can compete with a pure EV for the same buyers (and quite a few folks are still unclear about the difference between the two).

Some EV pundits fear that many plug-in hybrids will seldom or never be plugged in, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Norway: the survey found that PHEV owners drive electrically 55% of the time.

EVs are often bought as second cars: the study found that 71% of EV owners also own a legacy ICE vehicle. The most “multipurpose” EV, Tesla’s Model S, is twice as likely to be the only vehicle in a household.

Plug-in owners love their vehicles. Less than 1% of EV owners, and about 2% of PHEV owners, said they will not buy electric again (after 2025, those folks might be out of luck).

Here’s an interesting insight into the validity of automakers’ range claims: drivers estimated that electric range averages about 20% lower than the official range in summer, and 30% lower in the winter.

How important are public chargers? Norway has plenty, but they may not be widely used. Survey respondents said they mostly charged their vehicles at home or at work, and “rarely elsewhere.”


MORE: 6 EV infrastructure lessons we can learn from Norway


Source: Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics via Green Car Congress
Image: Elbilforeningen (CC BY 2.0)

  • Ramon A. Cardona

    Sadly, in the US, the notion of charging “at work” id verte low. Where installed, charging at work results in a higher rate of adoption by employees. While Norway has one government the USA has 51 X the total number of counties. In Ohio 88 counties all imposed rules and certification requirements for electrical installations. Depending on politics, incentives may or may not exist. As such, opportunistic charging as stores, public garages or organizations, just check on EV chargers at MIT, is critical.

    • Michael B

      51X the average number of counties per “state” ( = ~3,144 ), but point taken. Hopefully state and federal involvement (I know, a bad phrase to many) will make a difference. Some might say that the climate crisis, federal deficit and geopolitics add up to an imperative as great as WWII (when, with federal prompting, Detroit turned on a dime to making only war vehicles), and would justify an executive order mandating that all new vehicles only be electric by 2020. I tend to be in this camp, but I digress…

      • nordlyst

        Compared to what regulators are doing now, such a mandate might possibly be better. But I don’t think it represents the most reasonable solution. Giving manufacturers that little time would guarantee that new car sales in 2020 would crash, as there is no way to produce enough batteries for ~20 million BEVs in so short a time (or about 90 million if all governments did this).

        Ideally governments should make tough and crystal clear demands – but well ahead in time so that everyone has a fair chance to adapt in time. So I am all in favor of an emissions-free mandate (which in practice means BEVs), but would allow much more time. 2030 ought to be possible. With much more certainty about the market size the scramble to ensure you could get sufficient batteries would begin immediately and there would be massive investment in all parts of the chain starting now…

        Of course our opinions are irrelevant since government listens far more to the industry itself than anyone else, and prioritizes playing politics rather than protecting people. How else to explain that the US fleet is half as fuel-efficient as the European one? Or that EU allows ten times as much NOx to be emitted as the US? I believe it is because making fuel more expensive in the US would hurt Detroit, and restricting NOx in EU would hurt the European car makers (who have the edge in diesel technology). On neither side does the regulator take rational decisions based on the public good..!

    • nordlyst

      Having “rules and certification requirements” for electrical installations is only reasonable. Having them defined at county level makes ZERO sense. The US has one standard for the electrical grid and should have one set of requirements for sockets from which EVs can charge and what kind of charging equipment can be used.

      In Norway the rules for EV charging have actually tightened a bit over time. There were some instances of existing circuits proving themselves to be inadequate for a prolonged load of 16A, which was initially considered A-OK to draw from a standard socket. Today we allow 10A charging (but recall we have 230 V, so this gives 2.3 kW) from standard sockets, but require a wall charger and a different socket for higher power. I charge at 10A from a standard socket I had installed at my parking space in a shared garage (I live in a condo). Only seldom do I wish I could charge any faster at home, and sometimes I actually set the charger to 6A to maximize kindness to my battery.

  • Ramon A. Cardona

    After looking at Norway’s DC Fast Charging network, which is superb, I wonder as to the research results. Some cultural factor not considered? Now, I want to live there! OMG, what an infrastructure!

    • nordlyst

      Why? The simple is truth is that most people seldom NEED to charge their car anywhere but at home or at work. It is nowadays very common for employers to offer a place to charge, for free, and it is obviously both more convenient and financially beneficial to take advantage – so people do. (Granted, electricity is so cheap that it doesn’t amount to very much, but just the thought of “driving for free” is enticing anyway.)

      I live in Kristiansand in the south of Norway. I moved here from Oslo (where I didn’t have a car, or much need of one) in March last year, and immediately bought a used (actually USA-imported) LEAF as my only car. It is a bit limiting, but so far I have only borrowed an ICE *once* to supplement it (when driving to Oslo for an interview, and back again the same day – a round-trip of about 400 miles that would be possible but impracitical in the LEAF).

      Fast chargers are a necessity, at least with only 24 kWh. But I still need them quite infrequently. And when I do need them it is often only for ten minutes or even less, a quick top-up to make sure I reach my destination, where I will slow-charge. I can go to my local zoo or the water park or IKEA or the supermarket, and they all have a place to plug in – often for free.

      Lastly: The charging network over here is pretty good. But it doesn’t provide me with anywhere near the freedom of an ICEV. If I decided to head north into the sparsely-populated areas in inland Norway on a whim, I could easily land myself in trouble. I may want to go to the Hardanger national park (see Google Maps if you’re curious) and take detours and just explore – but as of now, I would have to plan carefully and set aside quite a lot of extra time for charging. Unfortunately most people are deterred not merely by actual, real-world drawbacks that will affect them, but equally (or so it seems) by the mere thought of any limitation versus a “traditional” car. Hence the statistic showing that most households who buy an EV also has an ICEV at their disposal.

  • nordlyst

    > EVs are often bought as second cars

    This is a potentially misleading statement! One very important point that this, and previous similar studies, has made clear is that although many buys an EV *thinking* it will be their second car, it very quickly becomes the first car. That is, the EV is driven much more than their ICEV in the course of a year, and the EV is the car they enjoy the most and want to drive. Norway’s incentive structure also helps push people to prefer the EV when they can, as toll roads are everywhere and EVs exempted, fossil fuels are expensive, and EVs get other perks like use of bus lanes and free parking. But the fact EVs are torquey and quick and fun to drive should help this outcome along even in markets that lack these incentives.

    • Jim Fox

      Couldn’t agree more! Few people know that almost ALL electricity in Norge is hydro and is very cheap, compared to other Norwegian consumables. Lucky place.

      Love your country! Worked for Aker Process Systems in Billingstad on the Asgard ‘B’ semi-submersible, never had a better employer. Winston Churchill is still revered in Norge as the liberator–statues all over! Am I wrong?

    • Kim S. Andreasen

      It may also be misleading to assume that an EV as first car means that it is driven more kilometers than the ICEV 2nd car. Our e-Up became instantly our 1st car and is chosen for about 90-95 % of the trips. But our old ICEV handles most of the very long trips, so after the first year the ICEV had nevertheless gone slightly more kilometers than the e-Up.

      • nordlyst

        Really? Typical mileage for an EV in Norway is about 15,000 km annually. A few go by car in summer to places like Italy, but most who go by car for the main vacation go no farther than Sweden or Denmark. Even if you go to Napoli you will likely need less than 1,000 km for the whole trip.

        Of course if you go 300 km to your mountain cabin every single weekend (52 times) that’ll get you to 15,000 km as well. But the point is very few does.

        • Kim S. Andreasen

          To be honest, in our case the ICEV (an old 7-seater Ford Galaxy) is also used when there isn’t room enough for goods or people in the e-Up!, but I don’t think that this makes so much of a difference. In a few days I’ll have the numbers for the 2nd year – I think that the e-Up! will win this time, as we have learned to utilize the fast chargers along the Danish highways. They make it absolutely feasible to travel from end to end in DK, but only as long as you don’t get too far away from the highway in rural ares. i.e. the same problem as you have in Norway 😉 And please remember: Statistics with only one observation is very precise but in no way representative 😉

          • nordlyst

            Yes, rural roaming still requires careful planning – which perhaps doesn’t deserve to be called roaming at all. It’s getting better all the time though. Riksvei 9 is finally getting chargers less than 50 km apart, making a huge area accessible to me (in Kristiansand) that I previously wouldn’t dare to explore.

            Regarding sample size that was kind of my point. Your needs or mine are relevant as far as they are representative. 😉