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Otautahi – The world’s electric vehicle fleet accounted for 4.2 percent of light vehicle sales in 2020, almost double 2019’s 2.5 percent.

Norway, Iceland and Sweden are leading the charge, with plug-in electric vehicles accounting for 74.8 percent, 45 percent and 32.2 percent respectively in 2020.

Various policies have incentivised electric vehicle uptake in Norway – but might not translate well to other countries.

Earlier this year He Pou a Rangi Climate Change Commission advised that increasing the number of electric vehicles should be a priority area for climate change action in New Zealand.

Emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels negatively affect outdoor air quality and human health.

In 2015, motor vehicle emissions, largely from diesel vehicles, were the main source of nitrogen dioxide in our air which can impact on respiratory health.

So by August this year, New Zealand had 28,113 electric vehicles on the road. 75 percent of the light electric vehicle fleet is made up of pure electric cars; the rest of the fleet consists of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Despite difficult circumstances and the pandemic’s negative impact on the automotive industry, electric vehicles made a giant leap forward in many countries in 2020.

According to estimates from industry tracker EV-Volumes, plug-in electric vehicles worldwide accounted for 4.2 percent of global light vehicle sales last year. While just eight countries reported an EV share of five percent or higher in 2019, 13 countries managed to push electric vehicles past 10 percent of new light vehicle sales in 2020.

Like in prior years, Norway was a positive outlier with a 75-percent share of plug-in electric vehicles, while Iceland, Sweden and Finland also featured in the top five which is 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, fell out of the top 10 with electric vehicles accounting for 6.2 percent of passenger car sales in the country.

While Norway’s policy measures such as 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 duties for electric vehicles, Norway is effectively subsidising EV purchases at a level that a larger country such as the US couldn’t afford.

Secondly, Norway is a very wealthy country, ironically thanks to its oil reserves) with a high level of income.