Why Norway is full of Teslas
There are Teslas everywhere in this
city. Up until today I’d seen a total of about five Teslas my entire life. And three of those five were behind glass cases in luxury malls. I’ve been in Oslo
for like a couple of hours and I’ve seen like 50 Teslas. There’s one right there. They’re beautiful, they’re sleek, they are efficient, they’re fast and they’re
$70,000. Here comes another one up the road. Oh yeah. 100% electricity, no gas, and it
can go from like zero to 100 kilometers in like five seconds. I have no idea, I’m not
a car person, so I don’t know if that’s right. Here in Norway in 2014,
Tesla actually broke a record for number of cars sold in a month for a single
model, of any kind of car not just electric cars. And you look around for a
few minutes and you realize it’s not just Teslas. There are electric cars
everywhere. Like, I see electric cars in the United States but nothing like this.
Oh, there’s a Tesla, there’s a Tesla. There it goes. Turns out that Oslo is
actually the epicenter of electric cars generally. You can tell which cars are electric by
their license plate. So this “E” at the beginning determines if it’s electric.
In 2016 in the United States of all the new cars that were purchased about 1% were
electric, more like 0.9%. In Norway it was 29% and that trend is only speeding up:
in January this year the share was like 37% or something of all the cars
purchased being electric. Where on earth have I ended up? I’ve
been kind of wandering around and I feel like I’m about to enter a secret cave.
The real question is can I fly my drone over this amazing waterfall? I’ve never flown
a drone in Norway before so we’ll see how this goes. 99% of Norway’s electricity comes from
hydropower which is like dams. So you have really cheap clean energy that can
be used to power these electric cars. The real core explanation here, the reason why
there are so many Teslas and so many electric cars on the road comes down to
government policy. The government incentivizes very very strongly people
to buy electric cars. This happens in various forms: you get
free parking if you drive an electric car, you get access to the HOV Lane, which
has way less traffic, you don’t have to pay registration fees, you get tax
deductions on your income tax, and perhaps the biggest incentive of all is
on the business side: companies like Tesla don’t ha ve to pay sales tax for
selling here in Norway and so all of this combined makes it actually way way
cheaper for someone to buy a Tesla here in Norway than to buy one in the United
States. Well it’s been fun exploring this random
little area I think the big takeaway from this whole entire journey so far is
even thugz cry. So just remember: even thugz cry. Alright, this is perhaps my favorite sight so far. There are 2,000 of these charging stations here in Oslo. Excuse me can I ask you a couple, I’m so
curious about – can I record it? Yeah, of course. So it’s it’s all free. It’s free? Yeah, it’s free. This is what you get from buying an
electric car. You get free charging and you can go in and out of Oslo without
paying for the “bompenger” (toll). All of these subsidies we’re talking about that,
help fund these electric cars are funded by what’s called sovereign wealth fund.
It’s this huge fund that Norway has it’s worth almost a trillion dollars. The
government owns it it’s basically their rainy day fund and this is what they use
to fund the subsidies. The sovereign wealth fund in Norway is comprised
almost entirely of oil money, oil and gas money, fossil fuels. Norway’s a huge
producer of oil and gas and they sell that to other countries and reap the
benefits in terms of revenue and put that into the sovereign wealth fund
which then gets funneled into subsidies for electric cars. So they’re not burning
the oil here and releasing carbon into the atmosphere but they’re sending off
to go be burned somewhere else. I asked my friend Tor what he thinks about this.
Tor, what do you feel about Norway being this green sustainable society, but
really depending at the end of the day on fossil fuels in order to make that
happen? Is that a tension within the Norwegian
psyche? So I think the way we resolve it is basically that the world needs oil.
It needs, you know there’s a lot of countries are developing: China, India,
that will always need energy and we would argue that we extract it more
greenly than other countries. We’re buying good conscience for
sure yeah but like it’s better than doing anything. We’re fully aware that
there’s like green shift we’re talking about is funded by you know oil money.
The irony is not lost on us in any way. So I think Tor is right — I think that the
fact that Norway is exporting its carbon footprint to other countries, it doesn’t
cancel out all of the wonderful progressive green things that they’re
doing here. This is a story about incentives and green infrastructure and a green society but it’s also a story about how fossil fuels continue to make
the world go round. I am tired and jet-lagged and haven’t
slept in like twenty three hours. I’m gonna go to bed. It was a fun day chasing Teslas. Tomorrow, we go to the North Pole.