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New registrations of imported electric vehicles (EVs) in Japan more than doubled in 2021 — an encouraging sign for the likes of Tesla Inc. in what has been a tough market for foreign EV-makers.

Registrations for imported EVs totaled 8,610 last year, up from 3,238 in 2020, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Tuesday. EVs accounted for 3.3% of foreign car registrations in the nation in 2021, compared with 1.3% the previous year.

Japan has been relatively slow to embrace EVs, partly due to a lack of charging stations, parking space and sufficient subsidies as the vehicles tend to be more expensive than gasoline cars. Hybrid cars are more popular in the country, where the EV penetration rate is about 1% of the vehicle market.

The landscape is shifting as EVs become more affordable. Tesla cut the price of the long-range version of its Model 3 by 24% to nearly ¥5 million ($43,380) last year, driving up demand.

Japan is also getting behind EVs as it aims to achieve carbon neutrality in three decades. In November the government doubled EV subsidies, including for ultrasmall "kei EVs."

Registrations of imported gasoline hybrids rose to 37,530 units last year from 13,465 in 2020, the association said Tuesday.

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