Norway just hit 82% plugin vehicle new car sales in September 2020. This raises the question: “Why are 18% of the purchases non-plugin vehicles?” That got me dreaming up ideas for how to get a country from moderate EV market share (5–10%, for example) to 100% EV market share. Perhaps some of those ideas could be effective in Norway now, and other countries later as they get closer and closer to a high percentage of plugin vehicles.
The “Gas Car Laugh”
Let’s start with a premise. There have been very many stories in recent years of people who drove EVs proclaiming that they would never own an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) again. EVs are that much better. Perhaps it’s how quiet EVs are, that the drivers don’t have to deal with smelly gas stations any more, the environmental benefit, the low maintenance, the lower fuel costs, “the fun of instant torque and fast acceleration,” or other reasons.
Recently, at the local National Drive Electric Week event here in Las Vegas, Paul Bordenkircher, who drives a Chevy Spark, told me that when he gets into his wife’s gasoline car, he laughs. The technology just feels so old, outdated. This sentiment about ICE cars from EV drivers is not altogether uncommon. So many times, EV drivers have said that they will never drive a gas car again. I’ve never heard it go the other way around, whereby an EV driver decides that driving a gas car is better and leaves behind her or his EV (though, I’m sure that there are a few examples somewhere).
That provided the second stimulus for this article.
Why Are the 18% Buying ICEVs?
When more than 4 out of 5 new vehicle sales are for plugless vehicles, what is causing the other 1/5 to delay?
Some of these vehicles are likely purchased by people who simply have no experience with an EV, and aren’t motivated to learn. Maybe they are hesitant to learn something new, especially since there’s new technology involved. However, if they were put into a position where they had decent exposure to them, they might like driving an EV. With this exposure, some percentage of them might decide to buy an EV.
Is There a Solution Right in Front of Us?
One possible solution, then, could be to require that the driver seeking to buy an ICEV first trial an EV for a week (or month) prior to buying an ICEV. The hope is that the driver would, by the end of the trial, decide to buy an EV instead of an ICEV.
This might be an approach for an intermediary stage along a series of stages that ultimately could get a country to 100%* EV participation. (*Regarding the “100%” figure, there would naturally be some exceptions for some period of time, such as specialty vehicles and classic cars. These could be reduced over time until the time that there is a final ban on driving ICE vehicles.)
Case In Point
Never say “never.”
Now let’s explore ideas that government administrators might use to incentivize citizens to finish with their addiction to fossil fuel vehicles. This list of stages through which a country (or other jurisdiction) could pass might be considered a proposal for how to get from being a “moderate EV” or “high EV” country to an “all EV” country.
This article lays out a series of stages a country could go through to methodically reach that end stage. It is not intended to be the final word on the stages, but it is rather a starting place for jurisdictions to take up the matter for discussion when the timing is right for that jurisdiction.
Stages for a Country to Get to 100% EVs
Please note that there are no timelines given, as these would be determined by the country. Some steps could take years.
1. Jurisdictions develop and provide a large spate of incentives such as use of carpool and bus lanes, parking advantages, lower car loan rates, reduction of auto taxes, and other possible incentives for buying an EV and possibly disincentives for buying an ICEV. (Norway has many of these in place.)
2. Fossil fuel industries must pay a fee to cover the balance of the external costs associated with fossil fuels, such as healthcare costs and environmental cleanup for existing and future sites. A report created by the Environmental Protection Agency states that the US has 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells, and about half of them are unplugged, which means that some could still leaking methane (aka natural gas), which is a dangerous greenhouse gas.
3. Gas station owners must pay all costs to disinter the gas and diesel tanks and return the land to its natural state. The estimated costs for reconstitution of land is to be paid now (over a several year period), while the gas station is still operating, to prevent the owners from skipping out later by filing bankruptcy. These funds would be held in escrow by the governing jurisdiction.
4A. ICEV purchasers must pay a fee to address their own contribution to external costs, such as healthcare costs and environmental costs, and that fee would also partially cover the costs of a program for people looking to buy ICEVs to first trial an EV.
4B. People seeking to buy an ICEV must first trial an EV for a month prior to buying an ICEV with the hope that the driver would, at the end of the trial, decide to buy an EV instead of an ICEV.
5A. Ban the sale of new ICEVs.
5B. Drivers must get permission for new ICEV purchases. An example might be a specialty vehicle such as a mining vehicle that isn’t available in EV form yet, or perhaps an exemption for the occasional, implacable, ineducable Luddite (joking).
6. Ban the sale of used ICEVs.
7. Ban the sale of HEVs (hybrids) and PHEVs (plug-in hybrids).
8. Ban the driving of all ICEVs, and the sale of gas and diesel.
The Inevitable “You Nannyists” Pushback
There will undoubtedly come the proclamations that environmentalists are nannyists and overprotectionists, and that unrestricted freedoms are more important than keeping the planet habitable. Please consider that “nannyists” have protected children from radiation poisoning by banning children’s Atomic Lab Kits that contained uranium, and “nannyists” protected people from metal-tipped lawn darts that caused some people to lose their eyesight in one eye, and “nannyists” protected nature from DDT, a pesticide that killed countless wildlife and greatly harmed the environment we all rely on for life on Earth, and “nannyists” protected people from Benoxaprofen, a drug that caused liver and kidney failure, and “nannyists” protected people and fetuses from lead in gasoline, which caused an airborne neurotoxin. Sometimes, protection of people, animals, and the environmentalist from avaricious people seeking to make money at any expense is necessary to have rational policy that serves the general public.
In this case, people with asthma and other respiratory sensitivities would be protected from air pollution, and wildlife and the environment would be protected from oil spills, natural gas leaks, water pollution, and other detrimental impact, which results from using fossil fuels. All of us would be protected from carcinogenic air pollution and society-destroying global heating and climate change.
It is sometimes more important to set out a plan than to get all of the projected target dates within that plan correct. Due to a sense of urgency, any climate plan would be best served by being dated too aggressively rather than not aggressively enough. Target date adjustments would likely happen, which is fine. The important aspect here is to get started, and then find your way as time and developments unfold.
If we take seriously the threat of climate change, and we accept that fossil fuel vehicles move us in the wrong direction, then it makes sense to map out a path that could bring us to a time when we are no longer using fossil fuel vehicles. Plans for fossil fuel use for heating and other purposes could be executed concomitantly.
As for urgency, “our house is on fire” and it’s time to “panic,” in the words of the inimitable Greta Thunberg. These are phrases which I consider to be appropriate in this time of extreme weather, melting ice, rising sea levels, and raging fires. Perhaps, though, we might stake out a more considered path by replacing “panic” with “act with high urgency.”
In addition to the jurisdictional policy items discussed in this article, we must not forget that there are many actions that we can take as individuals — such as driving EVs, getting solar if we own homes or community solar if we don’t own homes, eating plant–based foods, financially supporting important green groups (such as CleanTechnica), gardening, investing in renewable energy companies, and divesting from fossil fuel and nuclear companies.