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20 March 2024 Norway’s Battery Electric Vehicles and Public Health- Findings From the Literature
Olalekan John Okesanya, John Michael B Saclolo, Kristine Bernadette Presno Mia, Blaise Ntacyabukura, Victorita Corman, Attaullah Ahmadi, Ryan Rachmad Nugraha, Jiangchuan He, Joeydann M. Telin, Ugyen Utse Tshering, Ynusa Abdullahi, Jerico Bautista Ogaya, Florante E. Delos Santos, Sharon Ann Pedrajas-Mendoza, Melchor M. Magramo, Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III, M.B.N. Kouwenhoven
Author Affiliations +
Abstract

The transportation sector is among the highest contributors to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions in European nations, with private cars emerging as the primary source. Although reducing emissions presents a formidable challenge, the emergence of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) offers a promising and sustainable avenue toward achieving zero greenhouse gases within the transportation infrastructure. Since the 1990s, the Norwegian parliament has fervently supported this transition, leveraging public awareness campaigns and a range of financial incentives for its users nationwide. The widespread utilization of BEVs promises substantial health benefits, including ensuring cleaner air for all citizens regardless of their socioeconomic status and fostering improvements in public health outcomes. This transition potentially curtails hundreds of thousands of annual deaths attributed to climate change, enhances the quality of life, bolsters civilian productivity, and fuels economic and population growth. The adoption of BEVs offers a myriad of advantages, including reduced health risks and premature mortality, as well as a quieter environment with diminished noise pollution. Nonetheless, the integration of BEVs necessitates robust road infrastructure with considerable maintenance costs, alongside limitations on driving range for users. Concerns arise regarding potential particle emissions from BEV tire wear due to the increased weight of batteries compared to conventional vehicles. Rapid acceleration capabilities may accelerate tire degradation, contributing to higher particle emissions, of which only 10% to 20% remain suspended in the air, whereas the majority settles on road surfaces, posing a threat to nearby aquatic ecosystems when washed into water bodies and soils. While BEVs hold promise for valuable benefits, successful policy creation and implementation require a detailed awareness of their limitations and challenges to ensure a comprehensive approach to sustainable mobility and public health improvement. Therefore, more research on the limitations of BEVs can help inform improved tactics for maximizing their benefits while limiting potential disadvantages.

A swift transition to electric vehicles is a good public health intervention that benefits the quality of the air and climate systems. It is expedient to know that this new technology will not solve all problems caused by transportation systems, as there will always be some unwanted and unexpected side effects as usual with new technologies. We suggest more advanced research on EVs shortcomings for better understanding and usage.

Introduction

“Our Common Future” is a phrase commonly known as The Report of Brundtland, which was published in the year 1987.1 This phrase birthed the popular word “Sustainable development.” The development of these sustainable goals identified climate disruption as a serious danger to the ecosystem and humankind. There is a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to address this threat and achieve sustainability. For 30 years, all countries have decided to limit the global increase in the mean temperature to preferably 1.5°C or less.1 In the European Union member states, the transportation system is one of the largest contributors to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, with approximately 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in European Union nations arising from the transport system, within which private cars contribute the most.2 One of the most sought-after solutions to this threat is the implementation of battery electric vehicle (BEV) technology while encouraging less driving, as available strategies that could enable the achievement of zero greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation system are challenging.3 The transportation system is actively working to undertake a diversified approach to emissions reduction, which includes low-carbon infrastructure, electrification, and intelligent systems management.4 This involves investing in greener transportation options such as public transit and bike lanes, incentivizing and subsidizing electric vehicles, improving vehicle technological efficiency, encouraging carpooling and ridesharing, and using lower-carbon fuels such as biofuels and hydrogen. Tax policies on transport fuels are also being developed to raise the expense of carbon-intensive options while encouraging cleaner alternatives.5,6

The government of Norway has actively embraced zero greenhouse gas emissions since 1990. Since then, efforts have been put in place to curtail the emissions of CO2 in the country. In 2016, Norway became the only country to have 5 electric cars for every 100 commercial vehicles on the road. This achievement has been kept on a gradual increase, making Norway the first country globally in 2020 to report a yearly sales record of electric vehicles significantly higher than the combined number of combustion engine cars sold. In September 2022, electric vehicles reached 25%, cumulating to 79.2% of their market share in the country for 2022.7 The implementation of battery electric vehicles in Norway has advanced through the phases of conceptualization, testing, initial market, and market opening, culminating in its current phase of substantial market expansion.8

Norway is one of the largest oil producers in Europe, and a major exporter of gas globally. Ever since 1990, when the government of Norway decided to reduce its emissions, they have developed a greener transportation system, which they achieved by encouraging the manufacturing of battery electric vehicles, green shipping, and renewable energy infrastructure and their adoption in the country. The country provides tax rebates, free parking, and access to bus lanes for electric vehicle owners.9 The National Action Plan for Alternative Fuels Infrastructure intends to achieve fossil-free public transport by 2025, while measures for green shipping and alternative fuel infrastructure aim to minimize emissions from fisheries and domestic shipping by 2030. Norway is likewise at the forefront of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reduction, having ratified the Kigali Amendment and advocating for the eradication of regular flaring by 2030.10,11 The parliament of the country has adopted a national goal and agreed that by 2025, all newly-produced vehicles sold will have zero emissions. The radical increase in this evolution is primarily based on the country’s policy approaches and a broad spectrum of incentives.7,12 Therefore, this study aims to succinctly explore several approaches to BEV policy implementation as well as analyze the positive and negative impacts of Norway’s BEV policy on public health.

Approaches to BEV Policy Implementation

Norway’s climate policy has developed over time, moving toward a hybrid model that combines top-down and bottom-up approaches. Norway took the lead on environmental issues in the 1970s, setting unilateral climate targets and focusing on global sustainability. However, these goals were abandoned, resulting in a period of top-down management until the mid-2000s.13 The 2008 Climate Settlement pledged a 30% reduction in emissions by 2020, reflecting growing concerns about environmental effectiveness and the need for stronger domestic action. Subsequent policy documents, such as the 2015 White Paper, have emphasized a hybrid strategy that combines market-based processes with specific sectoral interventions. While Norway officially supports flexible methods such as those stated in the Paris Agreement, academic arguments continue concerning the most effective economic instruments and the balance between top-down and bottom-up approaches.14 In Norway, the adoption and implementation of zero greenhouse gas emission vehicles have been motivated by several incentives, and the government has actively endorsed the move since the 1990s. They made battery electric vehicles competitive with conventional ones by exempting all BEVs from the 25% value-added tax on the purchase, the re-registration tax on reselling, the graduated vehicle registration tax, the annual circulation tax, road tolls, public parking fees, and considerably lower rates of income tax on private use of company cars and ferry fares.15 All BEVs have access to bus lanes, and a reduction in tax for plug-in-hybrids was initiated in July 2013.16 In 2009, Transnova, a Norwegian organization, was developed as a driving concept to reduce gas emissions in the transportation system through various research and commercial development projects, offer financial incentives for the implementation of electric vehicles and alternative fuel infrastructure, and improve public transit. The agency’s goal is to promote low-carbon technologies, sustainable mobility solutions, and a greener transportation system.17 These activities lead to lower emissions, better air quality, more energy efficiency, and greater adoption of sustainable transportation methods, playing an important role in Norway’s attempts to combat climate change and transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport system.17,18 Fast charging stations were also established on every major road within 50 km of each other. Norway is the only and leading country in the world with the highest number of BEV users per capita. These success stories were a combination of financial incentives, and general awareness media.7,19

Norway’s incentives and initiatives have had a substantial impact on EV adoption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. Since 1990, the country’s emissions have been decoupled from GDP development, and it is expected to release approximately 41.2 million metric tonnes of CO2-eq per year by 2030, which is 20% lower than in 1990.20 Norway’s amended NDC aims for at least a 55% reduction below 1990 levels by 2030, in line with strategies to limit warming to 1.5°C. The country leads the world in BEV adoption, with an 86% market share of zero-emission vehicles in February 2022, and is on course to achieve 100% by the end of 2022. Furthermore, Norway’s Climate Change Act sets strong intermediate targets for reducing GHG emissions by 2030 and 2050.20,21

Impacts of Norway’s BEVs on Public Health

Positive impacts

Moving from the combustion of fuels to zero emissions in the transportation system in Norway will enhance a drastic decrease in the release of dangerous pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, fine particle pollution, sulfur dioxide, and greenhouse gases from conventional vehicles that pollute and affect climate change, subsequently causing adverse effects on human health. This transition will produce crucial health benefits for all residents of Norway in the coming years.22,23 Communities across Norway stand to benefit from this extensive transition to BEVs because emissions in the transportation system are a major source of primary exposure to the public in these communities. Purer air is equitably made available to all citizens, including those most vulnerable to air pollution, thereby improving the lives of many residents, especially those in rural and low-income communities in the country. Asthma problems, untimely deaths, and several health complications as a result of polluted air are significantly reduced.24 Thereby, thousands of lives can be saved, millions of asthma problems can be prevented, especially among the younger ones aged 6to 18 years, and the loss of billions of working hours and millions of working days can be avoided, along with other health implications, as a result of cleaner air. Analysis also reveals that an unquantifiable wealth of benefits for the global climate could be realized in the near future.25 A more friendly environment can be provided through BEVs while simultaneously decreasing our reliance on oil. The implementation of BEVs reduces noise exposure considerably in the community when compared to conventional vehicles that use combustion engines.26

It is suggested that emissions of greenhouse gases from transportation systems could have played a role in altering climatic conditions, potentially resulting in adverse effects on human lives globally that might not have occurred without the influence of climate change.27 A high rate of infectious diseases, prevalent illnesses via food, water, and vectors, the unavailability of quality water for drinking, mortalities from droughts, fires, accidents, and flooding, as well as a shortage of foods, are expected to increase dramatically in the coming years if efforts in the form of BEV policy are not made to reduce and curb these greenhouse gas emissions generated from the transportation system.25,27 Hundreds of thousands of annual deaths due to climate change are reduced, and several health and environmental co-benefits ensue. Both social and public performances are greatly improved as a result of the quality of health and efficiency of civilians. Financial pressure related to disease concerns from transportation emissions and expenses associated with high demand for healthcare services, as well as comfort and rehab from the climate crisis, is curtailed. As the nation’s vulnerability to the health implications of climate change and air pollution decreases, economic and population growth increases, and vice versa.28 Particular health risks, such as the heightened lifetime threat of cancer, respiratory, neurological, hematological, and infant-growth effects, as well as premature death, are reduced. Battery electric vehicles, on the other hand, have regenerative braking, which sustains the tires longer when applying brakes.29

Negative impacts

On the other hand, the implementation of BEVs will require a reliable road structure, often occupying expensive areas of land, and significant maintenance as well as management costs. Also, social costs are higher for road users during traffic and incur considerable pressure on the public’s pockets. Restrictions are placed on the users, such as the short distance covered and the high cost of the purchase.26 Long charging periods, anxieties about range, and elevated sticker costs are worsened in developing countries by frequent power outages, which heighten charging concerns.30,31 The spike in BEV ownership has exacerbated challenges such as congestion, as the infrastructure struggles to keep up with the rapidly increasing number of BEVs on the road.32 BEVs could suspend more particles from tire shredding and brakes compared to the combustion engines of conventional cars as a result of their batteries adding surplus weight. It was reported that particulate emissions from tires are approximately 1850 times greater than emissions from a conventional car’s tailpipe, and the wear of tires increases by around 20% for every 1000 pounds of vehicle weight. Therefore, BEV tires could pose a larger problem for particulate pollution than initially thought.33 How fiercely BEVs can be driven could be a disadvantage to their tires wearing away faster, especially during the use of their quick acceleration. Eighty to ninety percent of particulate suspensions from tires are estimated to remain deposited on road surfaces, which are often washed by rain and breeze into streams, rivers, and soils, which could pose a threat to aquatic habitats.34 Furthermore, the policy’s emphasis on BEVs has reduced incentives for people to use other environmentally friendly means of transportation, especially public transit or active forms of transportation like cycling and walking. This trend away from other forms of transportation not only diminishes possibilities for physical activity but also increases reliance on cars, causing further congestion and air pollution for others, eventually undermining public health goals.31

Conclusion

The transition to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in Norway has had a considerable positive influence on public health and the environment, but there are still issues that must be addressed. On the bright side, BEVs lower harmful pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in better air quality and health outcomes, particularly in vulnerable communities. This move also helps to support global efforts to mitigate climate change and its associated health hazards. However, challenges such as the need to have reliable infrastructure, high upfront expenditures, range anxiety, and potential environmental consequences from tire and brake wear must be addressed. Furthermore, focusing on EVs may shift attention and resources away from other sustainable transportation options, such as public transit and active modes of transportation, thus increasing congestion and air pollution. While BEVs promise benefits, successful policy creation and implementation require a detailed awareness of their limitations and challenges in order to assure a comprehensive approach to sustainable mobility and public health improvement. More research on the limitations of BEVs can help inform improved tactics for maximizing their benefits while limiting potential disadvantages.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization: OJO, DELP III, FEDS, BN, AA. Data curation: JMBS, KBPM, JBO, SAPM, JH, RRN. Formal analysis: FEDS, SAPM, MMM, OJO, BN, UUT. Investigation: OJO, JMBS, JBO, YA, AA, RRN, JMT, VC. Methodology: AA, BN, JH, RRN, YA, JMBS. Project Administration: DELP III, VC. Supervision: DELP III, MBNK, BN. Visualization: JBO, OJO, UUT, MBNK, JMT, MMM, YA. Validation: JMBS, KBPM, DELP III, MBNK, RRN, VC. Writing—original draft: OJO, UUT, RRN, JMBS, KBPM. Writing—review & editing: OJO, JBO, SAPM, FEDS, MMM, JMT, AA, JH. All authors contributed equally to the writing of this paper. All authors have read and approved the final draft of this article.

© The Author(s) 2024

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages ( https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

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Olalekan John Okesanya, John Michael B Saclolo, Kristine Bernadette Presno Mia, Blaise Ntacyabukura, Victorita Corman, Attaullah Ahmadi, Ryan Rachmad Nugraha, Jiangchuan He, Joeydann M. Telin, Ugyen Utse Tshering, Ynusa Abdullahi, Jerico Bautista Ogaya, Florante E. Delos Santos, Sharon Ann Pedrajas-Mendoza, Melchor M. Magramo, Don Eliseo Lucero-Prisno III, and M.B.N. Kouwenhoven "Norway’s Battery Electric Vehicles and Public Health- Findings From the Literature," Environmental Health Insights 18(1), (20 March 2024). https://doi.org/10.1177/11786302241238171
Received: 19 January 2024; Accepted: 22 February 2024; Published: 20 March 2024
KEYWORDS
electric vehicles
EVs policy
greenhouse gases
Norway
pollution
public health
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