Norway powers ahead (electrically): over half new car sales now electric or hybrid

UNTV News   •   January 8, 2018   •   3067

FILE PHOTO – An electric car is charged at a parking lot in Oslo, Norway, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

OSLO (Reuters) – 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 subsidized 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 (VOWG_p.DE), BMWi3 (BMWG.DE), Toyota Rav4 (7203.T) and Tesla Model X (TSLA.O). 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.

ZERO GOAL
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.

($1 = 8.1026 Norwegian crowns)

Reporting By Alister Doyle and Camilla Knudsen in Oslo, Andreas Cremer in Berlin, Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

EUA on Pfizer vaccine won’t be revoked yet despite Norway deaths, DOH says

Robie de Guzman   •   January 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The emergency use authorization (EUA) issued last week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to drug-maker Pfizer-BioNTech for its COVID-19 vaccine will not be revoked yet pending an investigation into claims that it caused the death of some elderly people in Norway, the Department of Health (DOH) said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Norwegian authorities are still looking into reports that 23 individuals aged 75 to 80 with underlying health conditions died after getting inoculated with COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Vergeire also said that studies need to be done on the matter.

“Pfizer has to submit a report to the Philippine Food And Drug Administration regarding this matter. Once we evaluate the report, base sa kanilang conclusion, that’s the time FDA can decide on the EUA of Pfizer. For now,” Vergeire said.

“Hanggang wala pang sufficient evidence that it was caused by vaccines, status quo tayo on this EUA given to Pfizer,” she added.

The FDA granted EUA to Pfizer last January 14, the first out of four applications it received so far. Other applications are AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac, and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.

FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said they are still awaiting a report from Norwegian authorities and that they will “revise the conditions of the EUA as needed,” before starting vaccinations as part of the agency’s protocols on the use of vaccines.

Health authorities also reiterated that COVID-19 vaccines will go through stringent evaluation before it can be approved for use in the country.

“Aside from the safety, and the efficacy na meron ang mga bakuna na papasok, titingnan din nila iyon pong social impact nito, titingnan nila ang affordability and titingnan nila sa response ng equity,” Vergeire said.

“They will be evaluating and then they give their recommendation to the Secretary. Kapag positive ang recommendation, we can procure the specific vaccine,” she added. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Aiko Miguel)

Soviet sub that sank off Norway in 1989 still emitting radiation

Robie de Guzman   •   July 11, 2019

Remote controlled robot taking measurements/ “smoke” seen near submarine ventilation hole under water | Courtesy: Reuters

A Soviet nuclear submarine which sank off Norway in 1989 is still emitting radiation, researchers said on Wednesday (July 10) following an expedition that used a remotely controlled vehicle for the first time.

The Komsomolets sank in on April 7, 1989 after a fire broke out on board, killing 42 crew. The wreck now lies at a depth of about 1,700 metres (5,577 feet) at the bottom of the Norwegian Sea, to the southwest of Bear Island in the Arctic.

Authorities have conducted yearly expeditions to monitor radiation levels since the 1990s but this year’s inspection was the first one to use a remotely operated vehicle called Aegir 6000 to film the wreckage and take samples which will be further analysed.

The scientific mission’s samples show levels of radioactivity at the site up to 800,000 higher than normal, the Norwegian Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority said in a statement.

“This is of course a higher level than we would usually measure out at sea but the levels we have found now are not alarming,” said expedition leader Hilde Elise Heldal of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.

Radioactivity levels “thin out” quickly at these depths and there are few fish in the area, she said. (REUTERS)

(Production: Ilze Filks)

163 Filipino crew of stranded cruise ship in Norway all safe: DFA

Robie de Guzman   •   March 25, 2019

Helicopters hover above the Viking Sky cruise ship as passengers are airlifted from the vessel that was stranded off Norway. | Courtesy: CHC Helicopter through Reuters

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) continues to closely monitor the rescue operations for the passengers of a cruise ship that was stranded off the coast of Norway.

In a statement on Sunday (March 24), the DFA said all 163 Filipino crew members of the cruise ship, Viking Sky, are safe and are helping in the evacuation of passengers

“The Philippine Embassy in Oslo, which is in touch with Viking Cruises and the Norwegian Rescue Center, reported that the ship’s 163 Filipino crew members are all safe and are helping evacuate passengers,” the DFA added.

Passengers also praised the efficiency and helpfulness of the ship’s Filipino crew in the evacuation, the Philippine Embassy in Norway said.

On Saturday, the Viking Sky sent a distress signal off the coast of Norway after it encountered engine problems in rough seas that caused it to drift toward the rocky shore.   

479 people, mostly senior citizens, were airlifted by Rescue Services. Some 20 passengers had been taken to hospital while others only suffered minor injuries, the Viking Cruise ship management said.

There were 1,373 passengers aboard the luxury ship the but none were Filipinos, the DFA said.

Report from Norwegian authorities said the luxury ship had restarted and is now moving at a slow pace. Tug boats are currently trying to move the Viking Sky to shore as three of the cruise ship’s four engines working. – Robie de Guzman

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