This date has been planned for about 5 years so it came as no surprise to the Icelanders that they can no longer fill their cars with gasoline. The governmental subventions for motorists to scrap their gasoline vehicles, combined with a mature used cars market of hydrogen vehicles due to their early adoption have made the transition possible. Another key factor has been the low price of hydrogen, Iceland has the cheapest hydrogen in the world since their domestic production meets demand.
Iceland is not only self-sufficient with hydrogen, all of it is produced through electrolysis based on hydro- and geothermal power. This means that 100% of the hydrogen consumed in Icelandic cars are produced from renewable sources, known to the consumer as Re-Hydro, compared to about 10% of the hydrogen in the US cars.
The transition has also resulted in that Iceland now has the most modern car fleet in the world. Half of the 233,000 vehicles are hydrogen-hybrids and half are fuel cell models, even though now three of four cars sold are fuel cell.
35 years ago the Icelandic car fleet consumed as much gasoline as the marine fleet, but due to the automotive subventions and the longer life length of boats, the marine fleet has not been able to keep pace. It will most likely take another 10 years before the last Icelandic fishing boat with a diesel engine is taken out of service. By then Iceland will have decreased their oil consumption with about 80% since year 2005.
For sentimental reasons some people had saved their gasoline vehicles to fill them up on the last day, so they can enjoy the smell of gasoline cruising around the island for the last time. The last man at the pump wasn’t there to be sentimental though: “I hope this tank will be enough to get me around to the car dealers today, cause I haven’t bought a hydrogen yet”.
Argument: The development of hydrogen-fueled cars is based on several different sources, with the optimistic scenarios for a fast introduction on the market, to the book The Hype about Hydrogen by Joseph J. Romm. The partly governmental initiative Icelandic New Energy is aiming for a total conversion to hydrogen in the transportation sector in Iceland to year 2050.
Questions: Is there any other country that has a better chance than Iceland to make a full transition away from the car gasoline society? What other positive effects will this have on the Icelandic economy, society and environment?