Iceland Ramps Up With EVs, Gets Europe's First Model S

By · June 20, 2013

Elon Musk and Gisli Gislason

Gisli Gislason (left) made a splash with a 1,000-Tesla order. He certainly got Elon Musk's attention.

It will be the first European Tesla Model S delivered sometime in July, and according to its proud owner, it will be a deluxe edition—a Signature Edition Performance model with the Plus Package. Vroom! The destination? Reykjavik, Iceland.

Gisli Gislason tends to do things in a big way. He also owns the first Roadster delivered to Europe (sold to him off the Tesla stand in Geneva), though while that car is off doing public relations work in EV-friendly Norway he’s driving one of his company-car Nissan LEAFs.

Get it All Here

Gislason’s Northern Lights Energy will offer a one-stop shop through its EVEN subsidiary, providing both a ready-made Level II and III charging network for home, business and public use, and a range of vehicles (including LEAFs, Indian-made Mahindra Revas (with the first next-generation Reva e2o in Europe), BYDs (maybe), Teslas, Smith Electric trucks and Zero motorcycles).

If all goes well, EVEN will expand into the afore-mentioned Norway (which has very EV-friendly policies), Estonia and even Israel, which may have a void with the demise of Better Place. The company is working with German utility giant RWE, and with U.S. supplier AeroVironment.

Gislason made a splash by ordering 1,000 Teslas, but he’s on his way to fulfill at least the first part of that order, with 50 Model S cars to be delivered to Iceland in 2013. “I expect the first one in July, two more in August, 10 in September, then 38 in December,” he said. To make sure he has the first Model S in Europe, he’s flying it in on a cargo plane from New York to Reykjavik.

Elon Musk and Gisli Gislason

Three EVs charging at Gislason's home in Reykjavik. That's his personal Roadster, the first one in Europe. (Gislason photo)

"We don't comment on our customers," says Tesla, when asked if Gislason is indeed getting the first Euro Model S, as well as another 50 cars in 2013.

EVEN has ambitious plans--it wants to have 200 EVs delivered in Iceland by the summer of 2014, 20 fast chargers installed by the summer of 2015, and the whole island accessible by December of 2015.

In Iceland, where gas cars are heavily taxed, EVs will be a bargain now that the onerous VAT tax has been modified in their favor. The 25.5 percent tax is waived on the first $45,000 of the EV’s purchase price. Also lifted is the import duty, which can reach 45 percent on cars with bigger engines.

Half the Price of a Panamera

“In the U.S. they’re priced about the same, but Icelanders will be able to buy two Tesla Model Ss for what they pay for one Porsche Panamera,” Gislason said. This huge financial advantage hasn’t yet turned Iceland into the land of plug-ins—Gislason estimates there are maybe 24 electric cars in the country now, mostly LEAFs and Mitsubishi I-MiEVs. Over the last few months, Gislason has imported and sold 10 LEAFs, apparently because the local Nissan dealer wasn’t interested. “I’m selling the LEAF in a store that is the Icelandic equivalent of Best Buy,” he said.

Iceland, of course, has many natural advantages, including 100 percent renewable energy from abundant geothermal and hydroelectric resources (with the lowest electricity prices in the world). The car market there is only about 12,000 to 14,000 cars per year, so it's not a huge hurdle to capture a decent share. Short travel distances mean it all works for EVs. Some 70 percent of the population lives in and around Reykjavik. And the climate isn't as cold as you might think!

The EVEN team in Iceland

The EVEN team in Iceland, at a geothermal vent. The country's 100 percent renewable energy is a big factor in the switch to EVs. (EVEN photo)

“We have many orders,” Gislason said. “When we get the Teslas here, they will be very popular. The Model S is so beautiful. And the Model X will do very well—35 percent of the cars here in Iceland are SUVs.” Gislason still plans to order those 1,000 Teslas, "though it might take five years to sell them."

Charging Ahead

Charging is still embryonic in Iceland, with only five public Level II stations, all from Northern Lights/EVEN. But Gislason’s company plans a network around Iceland’s 830-mile ring road, including both CHAdeMO and Tesla fast charging.

“My goal is to do it all—educate you about EVs, sell you a car, then take care of your charging,” Gislason said. There are only 319,000 people in Iceland, a country the size of Kentucky. So that’s a formidable task, but hardly an impossible one.

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