Norwegian Plugin Market Share Over 79% In October, & PHEVs Stagnate

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Norway had yet another very strong month for plugin electric vehicles, achieving market share of 79.1%. This was the second highest monthly result (after September’s end-of-quarter push). Best selling autos included the Volkswagen ID.3 and MG ZS EV. Old school combustion vehicles are now barely above 10% of the market and quickly disappearing.

As usual in Norway, full battery electric vehicles (BEVs) did the heavy lifting, taking almost 61% of the auto market, with plugin hybrids (PHEVs) taking 18%. This is a significant shift towards BEVs from the year-to-date tallies of 52% BEV and 20% PHEV. As a reminder, 2019 finished with 56% combined plugin market share.

Volkswagen ID.3. Image courtesy Volkswagen.

The Volkswagen ID.3 put in another very strong performance of 2,475 unit sales, taking almost 20% of Norway’s entire auto market! This was 25% higher than its already impressive September unit sales:

Notably, the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2, which both saw around 1000 unit volume in September (taking #2 and #3 spots), both had much lower volumes in October, making the 61% BEV result even more impressive. The Polestar 2 suffered from some recalls over (temporary) software issues, and the Tesla didn’t receive a shipment in October. When these two popular models are back to normal volumes in the coming months, Norway’s BEV share will push even higher.

Meanwhile, the MG ZS EV (priced from just €22,000 in Norway) took the opportunity to grab the number #2 spot for the first time.

MG ZS EV. Image courtesy MG.

The year-to-date cumulative share for plugins now stands at 71.8%, up from 59% at this point a year ago, and 56% in full year 2019.

November and December results should both see comfortably over 70% plugin share and lift the 2020 full year total close to 75%. With a wider variety of BEVs coming available in 2021, along with costs coming down and capabilities gradually improving, next year in Norway will reach well above 80% plugin share.

Norway is the market furthest along in the transition to electric transport.

Old-school non-hybridized petrol and diesel combustion vehicles are now running on fumes and reaching the end of the road in Norway, with combined share barely holding above the 10% mark. Next year should see some months with their combined share falling below 5% of the market, and evaporating completely in the not too distant future.

Conventional hybrids (a technology from the late 1990s when commercial lithium ion batteries were still fairly nascent) are now old news. Conventional hybrids were a transitional technology that has now been surpassed and is no longer compelling, with quickly diminishing share in Norway (from 14.1% in January 2020 to 9.5% now).

Even PHEVs, with 19.2% share in Q1 this year, but just 18.8% share over the last 3 months, are now stagnant compared to the growth of BEVs.

Note On PHEVs

Perhaps I can take this opportunity to engage with those members of our community here at CleanTechnica who are sceptical about PHEVs because these vehicles still include a combustion engine and do not (and currently can not) guarantee the electrification of driven miles.

We’ve published a few articles debating their merits and how much time we should spend covering them. For me, the bottom line is that PHEVs are a transition technology that is suitable for adding momentum in the early part of a given country’s transition to pure electric transport. There are still many regions where consumers want to buy a new vehicle, want to electrify their miles driven, and do have access to a local plug near their home or work, but do not have enough (or reliable enough) regional DC charging infrastructure for practical longer journeys.

In these regions, which are getting fewer, a BEV may simply not yet be a practical choice. For the many private owners who are in this position, and want to drive mostly electric, a PHEV remains a far better and cleaner option than any plugless vehicle.

Most of Norway (and increasingly even the far north of the country) now has sufficiently mature DC charging infrastructure to make PHEVs passé for most consumers, and that’s largely a function of how far along the electrification transition the country is. That’s of course not to say the infrastructure doesn’t need to be further improved.

Other markets are still in early to mid stages of the transition where PHEVs may still have a positive role for some consumers — especially against the context of the vast majority of plugless combustion vehicle sales! Given that this is still the case, saying that PHEVs should be banned or are a net negative is obviously a case of making the perfect the enemy of the good.

The question of whether PHEVs should be given any incentives is a separate and important one, but is likely to be somewhat inevitably linked to the stage of a country’s transition. When incentives and ongoing tax reductions and similar are abused — e.g., by corporate fleets looking for tax breaks — without any serious intention to drive electric miles, that obviously needs to be challenged and changed.

Different regions already have different approaches to PHEVs, so it’s not really sensible to have a broad brush ideological position about them that disregards particular circumstances. I had a guy email me recently ranting about PHEVs. Turned out he was from the US. I explained (in far too much detail) that PHEV incentives worked very differently in various parts of  Europe. He then apologised.

Bottom line — let’s try not to be narrow minded and ethnocentric; different places have different circumstances, different baseline conditions and different pressing needs. CleanTechnica has a global audience, and climate heating (amongst other challenges) is a global problem.

From January 2021, the European Commission has the power (and technology) to monitor real world fuel consumption (and therefore emissions) via onboard devices on all new light vehicles sold, including of course PHEVs. Fines and reforms to incentives therefore lie close ahead for PHEVs which are frequently misused (rarely or never plugged in). Read one of the ICCT’s technical discussions on OBFCM devices for more information about this.

As part of the yardstick to measure the progress of the transition, I think that keeping track of PHEV’s evolving share of the market in different regions is informative. Here at CleanTechnica we don’t spend much time (if any) actively promoting PHEVs, reviewing them, or even using photos of them in our content.

There will come a point — which will differ greatly by region — when plugless vehicles are no longer being sold, and the remaining technologies are largely PHEV and BEV. At that time it will make sense to contrast the two. This may occur in Norway in the coming couple of years. But for the time being, I intend to keep track of PHEVs and keep reporting on their share of the auto market in most regions, recognizing that in almost all regions they will only be a transitional technology that quickly will give way to pure battery electric vehicles in the future — as Norway is so clearly demonstrating.

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Dr. Maximilian Holland

Max is an anthropologist, social theorist and international political economist, trying to ask questions and encourage critical thinking. He has lived and worked in Europe and Asia, and is currently based in Barcelona. Find Max's book on social theory, follow Max on twitter @Dr_Maximilian and at, or contact him via LinkedIn.

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