[From the Renault.com blog]
Recently (on March 25th), Norway welcomed its proudest new citizen, the Renault ZOE. In a country with more electric vehicles per person than anywhere else, and where 20% of all cars sold in March were electric, it’s a launch that has been eagerly awaited. To understand more, we asked Roger Andersen, our man in Oslo.
How are Norwegians reacting to ZOE?
The launch was something of a hero’s welcome, held at Oslo’s sensational Bislett Stadium where the 1952 Winter Olympics took place.
Even the crowd of VIPs and journalists could hardly contain their enthusiasm. People queued to try out one of the 16 ZOE’s and we counted over 100 test drives on the day. The first wave of press coverage and feedback have been very positive.
In Norway, the ZOE appeals to a wide range of people from all walks of life. A lot of people look at it as a second car, but for many ZOE will actually be their first car on week days – taking them to work and back, going shopping, and all those other short drives we do after work.
People have told us they love the look, the competitive price, and especially the fact that they can supercharge ZOE in just 2 hours at home. ZOE is the only electric car that lets them do that. This gives ZOE a serious advantage ahead of competitors that include Nissan Leaf, VW e-UP and even BMW i3.
Why do Norwegians like electric cars so much?
It’s true, Norway is the world’s largest plug-in electric car market, with 9 times higher market presence than the USA. Norwegians love this clean new way to get around, and their government encourages it.
In fact, Norway’s parliament set a goal to reach 50,000 zero emission vehicles by 2018. To get there, the government has been helping with a generous list of tax breaks, discounts and incentives. From free sales tax to free parking, and even free access to ferries, the government has thought of everything! Two other “carrots” people find hard to resist are the free congestion charge, giving them open access to big cities, and access to the bus lane – a big bonus for electric car drivers who can whoosh past traffic jams on their way to and from work.
Why is Renault only launching ZOE in Norway now?
For a couple of reasons, Norway was a special case. We needed time to be ready.
Firstly, there was a debate about whether people should lease or buy the battery. Everywhere else in Europe, Renault offers a battery leasing package which works well. But things are different in Norway, and people are used to buying the battery along with the car, also in order to benefit from the fiscal incentive.
So in January, Renault Norway confirmed that ZOE would be available with battery to buy, rather than the leasing solution.
The other obstacle was the electric charging system. Norway’s power network is different to other countries in Europe, so we had to create a package for home use. It includes a wallbox and transformer – the magic kit that lets people charge up at home in just 2 hours!
Now that we have launched ZOE, things are moving fast. For example, Renault-Nissan is beefing up the public charging infrastructure by installing over 50 fast-charge poles at Kiwi grocery chain locations.
Also planned is the ZOE Experience Tour called TRY ME, where 8 ZOE’s will tour Norway for 8 weeks. The aim is to give 1,000 test drivers their taste of the future.
For Renault in Norway, 2014 is just the beginning. It looks like it will be an electrifying year!