Denmark’s 200% Car Tax: Crazy and Crazier

NY Times — Is saving $40,000 at the showroom enough to get drivers behind the wheel of an electric car? With a program in the works to add easy access to charging stations, Denmark is about to find out. The country imposes a punitive tax of about 200% on new cars, so a vehicle that would cost $20,000 in the United States costs $60,000 here. For a quarter-century, electric cars have been exempt from that tax. But the models on the market were so limited in their capabilities that only 497 of them are registered in the entire country.

For all their potential, electric cars have always been the subject of more talk than action, and only a handful are on the road in Denmark. But now the biggest Danish power company is working with a Silicon Valley start-up in a $100 million effort to wire the country with charging poles as well as service stations that can change out batteries in minutes.

The government offers a minimum $40,000 tax break on each new electric car — and free parking in downtown Copenhagen. But even in Denmark, one of the most environmentally conscious nations in the world, skepticism abounds. It is not clear that car buyers can be persuaded to make the switch.

“There is a psychological barrier for consumers when their car is dependent on a battery station,” warned Henrik Lund, a professor of energy planning at Aalborg University. “It’s risky.”

MP: Two amazing points: First, a 200% tax on cars in Denmark? That seems crazy. Second, most car buyers in Denmark actually pay the 200% tax and buy a regular car when they could avoid it by buying an electric car? That seems even crazier. I always thought if you tax something, you get less of it, and if you subsidize something you get more of it? Not in Denmark I guess.

Thanks to Stuart Anderson.

Update: Denmark, which hosts the UN climate change conference next week, is often seen as one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world. This reputation is mostly undeserved, but Denmark is doing its best to catch up.

MP: Undeserved is maybe right, since many seem perfectly willing to pass up $40,000 in green subsidies and tax savings?

About Mark J. Perry 262 Articles

Affiliation: University of Michigan

Dr. Mark J. Perry is a professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan.

He holds two graduate degrees in economics (M.A. and Ph.D.) from George Mason University in Washington, D.C. and an MBA degree in finance from the Curtis L. Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Since 1997, Professor Perry has been a member of the Board of Scholars for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan research and public policy institute in Michigan.

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1 Comment on Denmark’s 200% Car Tax: Crazy and Crazier

  1. Which cars are exempt from the tax? It is NOT hybrid cars. It is useless little city cars.

    Most people want to be able to drive their cars from Copenhagen to Germany. I have a car in Denmark, and I havn’t seen a single Electric Car Refuelling Station anywhere. I regularly do 500km trips on weekends to visit family elsewhere in Denmark, can I do this in an electric car? No.

    These Electric cars are only for small trips in comparison to decent diesels, which will do 1000km to a tank of diesel, and who wants to be stranded on the motorway after driving 200km and running out of juice, without a “electric” station in site?

    Infrastructure first.

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