With 120,500 members, in a country with just one fifth of Australia’s population, Norse Elbilforening, the Norwegian EV Association, has positioned itself as the EV organisation for all commentary on EVs in Norway. It’s recognised by government as the most effective NGO in the country.
At the recent annual conference of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) in Perth, two project officers from Norse Elbilforening outlined the organisation’s strategy. It’s deceptively simple – electrify transport as quickly as possible. That’s it.
The strategy is clearly working. 83% of all new car sales in Norway are now battery electric vehicles (BEVs). In Finnmark province, well above the Arctic Circle where the extreme cold weather can impact battery performance, it’s still 54%.
But fleet transition takes time - BEVs only make up 22% of all cars on the road in Norway.
The key to being the most influential NGO in Norway is that the association represents consumers, free of commercial interests. This ensures its EV policies are consumer orientated, which is not always the case when policy is developed by politicians or industry.
The association gets access to government because it is consumer based and because it has no vested interests. This might not be the case for an organisation that is technically or commercially based.
Norsk Elbilforening has accrued a huge database on EV drivers and their charging habits. Through their annual EV survey they have developed a deep knowledge of EV drivers that has enabled them to develop policy based on what drivers need, rather than what an external party might think (or perhaps hope) is required.
The association also receives payment from government to maintain Norway’s main database of all EV chargers which brings more legitimacy as a source of expertise.
The association’s income is almost entirely from membership, with a small portion from the sale of data. The key to membership retention is the extensive set of membership benefits, including a roaming radio frequency identification (RFID) device capable of activating all charging stations in the EU and Norway and automatically billing your account.
This single benefit has caused many fleet operators to join the association.
Other benefits for members through third parties include Norway’s cheapest roadside assistance, a 24/7 help line and discounts on various products including car insurance, car seats, accessories and hotels. The association negotiates these but makes no income from them.
A national, consistent policy from a professionalised association has allowed them to partner with EV importers who pay for the first year of membership. A membership package is on offer to every new EV buyer, taking the burden of assistance for new drivers from the manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers.
The association is extremely active in policy development and once again takes a simple fact-based approach. Policy development is done through regular conferences and annual member surveys, concentrating on what is immediately relevant; about 50% concerns charging, mainly planning early for expansion.
Effort is prioritised to personal transport, and areas where policy is covered by others (eg buses and ferries) or where resources aren’t adequate are left alone.
Professionalising the association, adequately paying a staff 55 employees, and employing skilled negotiators like Secretary-General, Christina Bu, have led to policy successes.
Policy achievements include zero registration fees and VAT for BEVs. This is normally 25%, although currently under review. Also access to bus lanes, reduced tolls, parking and ferry charges, as well as the elimination of ICE vehicles after 2025 and a zero emissions policy in public procurement.
In this policy environment, 63% of BEV buyers do so specifically because of the cost savings, rather than environmental reasons.
Norway’s apparent state of EV nirvana presents a compelling model for Australian electro mobility associations to emulate.
There is a pressing need in Australia for a purely consumer-based EV organisation with an effective voice to government.
However, it didn’t come easily for the Norwegians; it was the result of a lot of planning and hard work from very dedicated individuals, who are fortunately working in a relatively rational political environment.
It also helps that the government has sovereign control over the country’s oil and gas.