Norway powers ahead electrically with over half of new car sales now electric or hybrid

A Norwegian citizen disconnects his electric car from a free recharging station in Oslo. Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales in Norway last year. (Reuters)
Updated 03 January 2018
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Norway powers ahead electrically with over half of new car sales now electric or hybrid

OSLO: Sales of electric and hybrid cars rose above half of new registrations in Norway in 2017, a record aided by generous subsidies that extended the country’s lead in shifting from fossil-fuel engines, data showed on Wednesday.
Pure electric cars and hybrids, which have both battery power and a diesel or petrol motor, accounted for 52 percent of all new car sales last year in Norway against 40 percent in 2016, the independent Norwegian Road Federation (OFV) said.
“No one else is close” in terms of a national share of electric cars, OFV chief Oeyvind Solberg Thorsen said. “For the first time we have a fossil-fuel market share below 50 percent.”
Norway exempts new electric cars from almost all taxes and grants perks that can be worth thousands of dollars a year in terms of free or subsidised parking, re-charging and use of toll roads, ferries and tunnels.
It also generates almost all its electricity from hydropower, so the shift helps to reduce air pollution and climate change.
Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said Norway was far ahead of other nations such as the Netherlands, Sweden, China, France and Britain in electric car sales.
By the IEA yardstick, which excludes hybrid cars with only a small electric motor that cannot be plugged in, electric car sales in Norway rose to 39 percent in 2017 from 29 in 2016, when the Netherlands was in second on 6.4 percent.
Norwegian car sales in 2017 were topped by the Volkswagen Golf, BMWi3, Toyota Rav4 and Tesla Model X. The Tesla is pure electric and others have electric or hybrid versions.
In many countries, high prices of battery-driven cars, limited ranges between recharging and long charging times discourage buyers. Car makers say the disadvantages are dwindling over time with new models.
“We view Norway as a role model for how electric mobility can be promoted through smart incentives,” a spokesman at BMW’s Munich HQ said. “The situation would probably be different if these incentives were dropped.”
Other “good examples” of policies to spur electric-car demand include Britain, California and the Netherlands, he said.
Last year, Norway’s parliament set a non-binding goal that by 2025 all cars sold should be zero emissions. Among other nations, France and Britain plan to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Christina Bu, head of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association which represents owners, said the 2025 goal meant that Norway should stick with its incentives for electric cars.
“It’s an ambitious goal only seven years away,” she told Reuters. Overall, sales of zero emissions cars in Norway rose in 2017 to 21 percent from 16 in 2016.
Electric cars have widespread support among Norway’s 5.3 million people. A plan last year by the right-wing government to trim electric car incentives, dubbed a “Tesla Tax,” was dropped in negotiations on the 2018 budget.
Sales of diesel cars fell most in 2017, to 23 percent from 31 in 2016. Some regions in Norway have started to charge higher road tolls for diesel cars than for petrol-driven vehicles.
Norway’s electric car policies are hard to imitate. Norway can be generous because high revenues from oil and gas production have helped it amass the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, worth $1 trillion.
Illustrating the supportive benefits, a Volkswagen e-Golf electric car sells for 262,000 crowns ($32,300) in Norway, just fractionally above the import price of 260,000, according to the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association.
But a comparable gasoline-powered Golf, which costs just 180,000 crowns to import, ends up selling for 298,000 crowns after charges including value added tax, carbon tax, and another tax based on the weight of the vehicle.
Even in Norway, the benefits strain finances. Norway’s 1.3 trillion Norwegian crown budget projects a loss of tax revenues of 3 billion crowns a year because of electric cars.


Google puts up $1B to ease housing headaches it helped cause

In this May 1, 2019, file photo, a woman walks past a Google sign in San Francisco. Google is making a $1 billion commitment to address the soaring price of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, a problem that the internet company and its Silicon Valley peers helped create as the technology industry hired tens of thousands of high-paid workers. (AP)
Updated 19 June 2019
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Google puts up $1B to ease housing headaches it helped cause

  • A report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus

SAN FRANCISCO: Google is pouring $1 billion into easing the high-priced housing headaches that it and its Silicon Valley peers helped give the San Francisco Bay Area.
The pledge announced Tuesday by Google CEO Sundar Pichai consists of a $250 million investment fund and $750 million of company-owned land. It will be used to build at least 15,000 homes that will include low- and mid-income housing.
Google’s commitment eclipsed a recent $500 million pledge made by Microsoft to combat housing shortages in the Seattle area and a $500 million housing fund created by a consortium including Facebook.
Google is extending a helping hand as it draws up plans to expand into sprawling offices beyond its headquarters in Mountain View, California. That suburban city of roughly 80,000 people has been swamped with affluent tech workers since Google moved there shortly after its 1998 inception.
Since then, Google’s payroll has swelled from a few dozen workers to the more than 103,000 people now working for it and its corporate parent, Alphabet Inc. Nearly half of those workers are based in the Bay Area.
While Google has been expanding, so have a wide variety of other technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Oracle, Salesforce and Netflix — all of whom also lavish their workers with six-figure salaries and stock options that can yield multimillion-dollar windfalls.
The high incomes have resulted in bidding wars for the limited supply of homes in the Bay Area that can only be afforded by the affluent, a group increasingly dominated by tech workers, while people employed in other lines of work struggle to make ends meet on more modest incomes.
That is making it impossible for people on the lower end of the economic spectrum to buy a home in the Bay Area, where a mid-priced house sold for $990,000 in April, according to the California Association of Realtors, a trade group. In 1999, a mid-priced home sold for $308,000.
It’s even worse in San Francisco, a city from which many tech workers ride company buses to the Silicon Valley suburbs. A mid-priced house in San Francisco sold for nearly $1.7 million in April, according to the realtors’ group, quadruple the price of 20 years ago.
Google’s next big project will be in the Bay Area’s most populous city, San Jose, where it plans to build a corporate campus consisting of offices and housing where 15,000 to 20,000 of its employees will work and live.
The project faced resistance from community activists worried about its effect on housing prices. Last week, a report by Working Partnerships called upon Google to build more than 17,000 homes in the area to help offset the anticipated price increases caused by the new campus. The report by the labor-union backed labor group envisions apartment rent increases of $235 million by 2030 if action isn’t taken.
“For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement applauding the company’s $1 billion pledge.