It may be a small island nation, but Iceland is quite a big hitter on the world stage. From erupting volcanoes to quirky musicians, Iceland has been in the public eye quite a bit over the last few decades. And now Iceland is quickly becoming one of the leading countries in the world for electric car ownership.
The electric car in Iceland has been steadily growing in popularity over the past decade or so. In fact, in 2020, electric cars and hybrid electric cars accounted for over half of new car purchases. This took the total percentage of passenger electric and hybrid cars in Iceland to 11% in the same year.
These impressive statistics have caused many governments and policymakers around the world to look to Iceland for inspiration.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the reasons behind this clean transportation drive, its practicalities and costs. We’ll be covering the following:
- Why Iceland is so well suited to electric cars
- Electric car rental in Iceland
- Iceland electric car charging stations
- Electric car road trips and driving itineraries
Why is Iceland so well suited to electric cars?
There are numerous factors at play here, from government policy to geography. Two of the most significant factors are Iceland’s small population and relatively small landmass. This means that for a high percentage of journeys around the country, electric charging works well.
Let’s look at these factors in a little more detail.
The population of Iceland is around 330,000. That’s less than half a million people in the whole country! Out of these few hundred thousand people, many are generally highly educated with a high standard of living.
Icelanders believe in the benefits of greener transportation and have the financial stability to invest in it. Here you can get further information on Iceland's demographics.
This is applicable on an individual level as well as a societal and governmental level. Protecting the environment is high on the agenda and this is a big part of what is driving the change.
To back this up, the government has reduced taxes considerably on electric and hybrid cars. So, buying a new electric car is now more or less on par with purchasing a petrol-powered one.
The island is about 500 km from east to west and 350 km from north to south. This means that it is pretty feasible to cover most of the island while relying on electric car charging stations.
In fact, they have recently closed the loop on the famous Ring Road route and there are now charging stations at least every 100 km right the way along it.
Another factor here is that the majority of Iceland’s small population lives in urban areas, with a staggering 94% residing in towns and cities and two-thirds in Reykjavik.
This means that it is easy to provide plenty of charging points in the right places. City dwellers can zip about in small electric cars, as well as travel further afield.
The capital of Reykjavik is a city of course, but it’s a small one with plenty of space. Therefore, creating a reliable network of charging stations has been reasonably straightforward. In some circumstances, charging your car is even free as some shopping centers and employers offer free charging as a perk or incentive.
Iceland’s low-cost electricity
Another huge factor is that Iceland has very cheap and plentiful electricity. In fact, all of Iceland’s electric output comes from renewable sources. This makes it one of the greenest countries in the world when it comes to energy production. One of its few weaknesses is its reliance on fossil fuels for transportation.
Iceland’s main renewable energy sources are hydroelectric and geothermal energy. The powerful glacial rivers of its interior have been harnessed to produce about 80% of the country’s electricity, while the remaining 20% is produced using geothermal energy from its volcanic heart.
Most household heating and hot water is also provided by its geothermal systems, so Icelandic residents enjoy very low fuel bills when it comes to heating and running their homes.
Compare this with the high cost of fossil fuels, and you’ll see why electric cars are growing in popularity and feasibility. There are high taxes associated with petrol and diesel, and shipping fees are not cheap either.
Ease of charging
As mentioned, the cost of electricity in Iceland is low. So, after the initial outlay for a new car, running it is very affordable. Many newly built homes come with charging stations these days. There are also convenient charging stations all over Reykjavík making it very easy and simple to top up while on-the-go
Then, the road Highway One, also known as the Ring Road, also has regular charging stations. The Ring Road loops right the way around the country hugging the coastline, equipped with charging stations at least every 100km. With a little planning, electric cars can travel to most places with ease.
Electric car rental in Iceland
There are several companies that offer electric or hybrid car rentals in Iceland. There are a variety of models available, and they provide up-to-date information on charging facilities. If you would like to explore Iceland by electric car, certain itineraries make it very feasible.
Many hotels will offer free or low-cost overnight charging facilities, so long as you have the correct cables. This makes it very feasible to explore most of the country by green electricity. The Iceland electric car charge for a rental is pretty much on par with hiring a petrol vehicle.
Iceland electric car charging stations
As mentioned, you’re sure to find electric car charging stations every 100km at fuel stations around the Ring Road, as well as surrounding many larger hotels and some public buildings and shopping centers.
One go-to spot to recharge around the Keflavik International Airport area is IKEA. They provide their customers with around forty charging stations, so there is always one free. You can then pop in for the famously delicious Swedish meatballs while your car charges up.
Although some shopping centers offer free charging, the cost of charging your vehicle is quite low. For the high-speed charging stations, it costs around 40 ISK a minute which is about 35 cents per minute of charging. Generally, it takes about twenty minutes to charge up to 80% of the battery capacity.
Electric car limitations
While you can usually charge your car with ease around Iceland, there will be some limitations to an electrically fuelled adventure.
Number one: you will need to be very organized about when and where to stop. Unlike with gas-powered cars, you can’t keep a spare can of gas in the trunk. So, making sure you maintain your charge is especially important.
This is even more true in winter or when you are traveling in remote areas. If you run out of power, you could find yourself in a tricky situation and roadside assistance in Iceland can be expensive.
You will also need to be prepared to wait for your car to charge, so you shouldn’t be in too much of a rush. You can’t just fill up and go in quite the same way as you can with a fossil fuel-powered vehicle. On occasion, you may also need to wait in line to start your charge, although this is uncommon in Iceland.
Finally, there are more remote areas of Iceland where it wouldn’t be feasible to explore by electric car. These include the Highland F-Road routes and just a handful of other corners of the country.
Driving an electric car in Iceland
The best longer route to travel by electric car is the full Ring Road route. So long as you have plenty of time and are traveling in the summer months, an electric car is ideal. Just keep in mind that you will need to factor in a little more time than you would for a petrol-powered vehicle.
For shorter trips with plenty of charging points, you could stick to Reykjavík and its surroundings or the Golden Circle. The compact Snæfellsnes Peninsula is also a good bet.
For more on planning your green Iceland travel, take a peek at the helpful articles below. Your adventure awaits!