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A Tesla EV in Norway, yesterday

EVs take top spot in Norweigan car sales; wireless charging roads explored

Image credit: Reuters/Victoria Klesty

Electric car sales achieved a record 54 per cent market share in Norway in 2020.

The sale of electric cars in Norway overtook those powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines in 2020, with German automaker Volkswagen replacing US-based Tesla as the top battery-vehicle producer.

Battery electric vehicles (BEV) made up 54.3 per cent of all new cars sold in Norway in 2020 - a global record, up from 42.4 per cent in 2019. Only a decade ago, EVs comprised a mere 1 per cent of the overall market, according to the Norwegian Road Federation (OFV).

Seeking to become the first nation to end the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2025, Norway - where the national economy relies heavily on the production of oil - exempts fully electric vehicles from taxes imposed on those relying on fossil fuels.

This policy has turned the country's car market into a laboratory for automakers seeking a path to a future without internal combustion engines (ICE), vaulting new brands and models to the top of bestseller lists in recent years.

While sales of BEVs had previously broken the 50 per cent mark in individual months, 2020 was the first time that fully electric cars outsold the combined volume of ICE models for a year as a whole.

"We're definitely on track to reach the 2025 target," Oeyvind Thorsen, chief executive of OFV, told a news conference.

BEV sales accelerated in the final months of 2020, hitting its highest level for any single month in December, with a 66.7 per cent share of the car market. Volkswagen's Audi brand topped the 2020 leaderboard with its e-tron sports utility and sportsback vehicles the most popular new passenger cars in Norway last year, bumping Tesla's mid-sized Model 3 - the 2019 winner - to second place.

Electric vehicle sales are set to continue to soar in 2021, industry analysts and car distributors said, as more models are brought to the market.

"Our preliminary forecast is for electric cars to surpass 65 per cent of the market in 2021," said Christina Bu, who heads local interest group the Norwegian EV Association. "If we manage that, the goal of selling only zero-emission cars in 2025 will be within reach."

Tesla's mid-sized sports utility vehicle, the Model Y, is scheduled to reach the Norwegian market this year, facing a challenge from debut electric SUVs from Ford, BMW and Volkswagen.

The total of all new car sales in Norway in 2020 reached 141,412, of which 76,789 were fully electric. Cars with diesel-only engines have tumbled from a peak of 75.7 per cent of the overall Norwegian market in 2011 to just 8.6 per cent last year.

While the electric vehicle market share will keep rising, there is uncertainty around how many cars the main producers will allocate to Norway with European-wide demand increasing, said Harald Frigstad, chief executive at Norwegian car importer Bertel O. Steen.

Steen sells Daimler's Mercedes-Benz, as well as the Kia, Peugeot, Opel, Citroen, DS and Smart brands, and predicted around 70 per cent of its sales would be of fully electric models in 2021.

Electric vehicles are increasingly gaining market share in many countries, as reflected by significant milestones in the necessary infrastructure. In December 2020, for example, the UK's first EV charging garage forecourt opened in Essex.

The promotion of an all-electric future has also been given a high-profile, 'high-octane' boost from performance auto racing, with the announcement of the Extreme E series, which will start with its first competitive race in Saudi Arabia in late March 2021.

Meanwhile, researchers at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, have been looking at the potential for wireless charging roads. In a predicted future where the majority - eventually all - vehicles on the world's roads are battery-powered and need regular recharging, there is a need to address early the pinch point wherein the number of available charging stations is disproportinately smaller than the number of vehicles demanding to use them. Wireless charging roads are one potential solution.

By applying statistical geometry to analysing urban road networks, the KAUST researchers have considered how wireless charging roads might influence driver behavior and city planning in the future where EVs dominate the car market.

"Our work is motivated by the global trend of moving towards green transportation and EVs," said post-doc Mustafa Kishk. "Efficient dynamic charging systems, such as wireless power transfer systems installed under roads, are being developed by researchers and technology companies around the world as a way to charge EVs while driving without the need to stop. In this context, there is a need to mathematically analyse the large-scale deployment of charging roads in metropolitan cities."

Many factors come into play when charging roads are added to the urban road network. Drivers may seek out charging roads on their commute, which has implications for urban planning and traffic control. Meanwhile, the density of charging road installations in a city, and the likely time spent on and between the charging roads by commuters, could influence the size of batteries installed in EVs by car manufacturers.

Calculating the metrics that could be used to analyse a charging road network is very significant, as Duc Minh Nguyen, a lab colleague of Kishk, explained: "Our main challenge is that the metrics used to evaluate the performance of dynamic charging deployment, such as the distance to the nearest charging road on a random trip, depend on the starting and ending points of each trip.

"To correctly capture those metrics, we had to explicitly list all possible situations, compute the metrics in each case and evaluate how likely it is for each situation to happen in reality. For this, we used an approach called stochastic geometry to model and analyse how these metrics are affected by factors such as the density of roads and the frequency of dynamic charging deployment."

Applying this analysis to the Manhattan area of New York City, which has a road density of one road every 63m, Kishk and Nguyen, along with research leader Mohamed-Slim Alouini, determined that a driver would have an 80 per cent chance of encountering a charging road after driving for 500m when wireless charging is installed on 20 per cent of roads.

"This is the first study to incorporate stochastic geometry into the performance analysis of charging road deployment in metropolitan cities," said Kishk. "It is an important step towards a better understanding of charging road deployment in metropolitan cities."

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