Iceland 2021 Electric Car Sales and PHEV Sales

55% of new cars sold last year were plug-in electric.

Photo: Jakob Härter

BEVs (all-electric cars) were 28% of the market while PHEVs were 27%, bringing the total market share of plug-in cars to 55%.

For comparison, in 2020 these figures were 25%, 20% and 45%, respectively.

Tesla was the best-selling brand of plug-in cars (although not the best-selling brand overall – that is Kia). It actually sold more vehicles than the last year, but its share of the overall car market (8%) and of the plug-in car market (15%) are both lower than in the previous year, as these markets expanded a lot.

And, as Tesla’s sales were no longer dominated by the Model 3, but more or less evenly divided between the Model 3 and the Model Y, the best-selling car in Iceland (plug-in or not) is no longer a Tesla. The Model 3 topped the statistics in 2020, but in 2021 it was dethroned by the Toyota RAV4, with the two Teslas taking the rest of the podium.

And here are the statistics for plug-in cars only:

Top 3 all-electric cars (2021):
1. Tesla Model Y (537 units)
2. Tesla Model 3 (509 units)
3. Kia Niro EV (298 units)

The Nissan Leaf took the fourth place with 206 units – but, in addition to these new cars, there were a lot of used imports (more about that later).

Top 3 plug-in hybrid cars (2021):
1. Hyundai Tucson PHEV (341 units)
2. Kia Ceed PHEV (218 units)
3. Volvo XC60 (199 units)

Note: Statistics in this article (so far) cover only registrations of new (not used) passenger cars. The definition of a car for the purpose of these statistics includes minivans, passenger vans, crossovers, SUVs and serious 4WD vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser, but not cargo vehicles. When a vehicle is sold both as a cargo vehicle and as a passenger vehicle (e.g. the Nissan e-NV200), these statistics include only the passenger variant.

Used cars and “used” cars

Interestingly, among used cars/SUVs registered for the first time in Iceland last year (so, used imports) – still only passenger vehicles, excluding cargo vehicles - the share of plug-in vehicles is about 72%.

That’s right, higher than among new cars/SUVs. Most of them are PHEVs, not all-electrics.

The three most popular models, among these used imports, are the Outlander PHEV, the Leaf and the Tucson PHEV. As for the Tucson PHEV, which appeared on the European market in 2021, it is quite obvious that, despite showing up in the statistics as “used”, these SUVs are brand new vehicles. There were 269 such units registered in Iceland last year, a lot for a country with such a small population.

I recall something similar – a significant number of practically new plug-in cars showing up in statistics as “used” because they did not come via official distributors – happening in Norway.

In Iceland, counting used imports together with new cars changes the statistics a lot. The best-selling car/SUV overall in now the Tucson (744 units, including 610 PHEVs), followed by the RAV4 (638 units, including 121 PHEVs) and the Outlander (589 units, including, well, 589 PHEVs).

And statistics for plug-in cars now look like this:

Top 3 all-electric cars (2021, including used imports):
1. Tesla Model Y (539 units)
2. Tesla Model 3 (509 units)
3. Nissan Leaf (483 units)

Top 3 plug-in hybrid cars (2021, including used imports):
1. Hyundai Tucson PHEV (610 units)
2. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (589 units)
3. Volvo XC60 (241 units)


Source: [1]

Thanks to for providing the statistics.

California Is Getting Serious About Grid Batteries

At the moment, batteries are not yet an important source of grid electricity. Except in California, where they are.

Saticoy energy storage facility. Photo: Arevon Asset Management

As long as power generation is dominated by fossil fuels, electricity from grid-connected solar farms or wind farms usually does not go to waste; even when generation from renewables is (temporarily) high, it is still consumed in full; this is balanced by burning a little less natural gas or coal. However, as you decrease the share of fossil fuels and get closer and closer to an all-renewables grid, you will soon encounter a problem: the problem of energy storage, because supply (generation from solar and wind) does not want to follow the demand.

If you cannot store that excess green electricity somewhere, to be used later when power generation from renewables is low, the gap in supply will be filled by fossil fuels. Companies investing in solar farms will be happy (because they will hold a large share of the market), fossil fuel companies will be happy (because they will still hold a large share of the market), but pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will continue.

California’s solution to the storage problem is to use a lot of batteries. Not something analogous to batteries, but actual batteries – of the kind that, two decades ago, were not commonly used is anything bigger than a laptop.

If it’s stupid but it works…

It is not the first time that some low-CO2 technology seems too impractical to be deployed on a large scale, and then actually gets deployed on a large scale.

For example: are electric cars feasible? The energy density of Li-ion batteries is like 10-20 times lower than usable energy density of gasoline (and that is after correcting for the gasoline engine’s low efficiency). So, naturally, an electric car, with its batteries weighing 10-20 times more than the contents of a normal car’s fuel tank, would be prohibitively heavy.

And are electric cars a real thing in 2022? Yes, they are.

Now let’s imagine an electricity grid that relies not on fossil fuels, not on nuclear, not on hydro, but on solar and wind; mostly solar. Sources which are, obviously, intermittent. How do you get a steady, reliable stream of electricity from sources that are simply not steady? If the prevailing energy source is solar, not wind – and the sun disappears only for hours, not days – how about a partial solution: batteries that can power the grid for a few hours – just a few hours, not the whole night – after sunset?

Batteries than can power the grid. Not a long time ago, the whole idea would have been laughed off, but California is already 2.5 GW past laughing. This is how much utility-scale battery storage CAISO had at the end of 2021. The overwhelming majority of it was installed during 2021. CAISO is the operator serving about 80% of California’s population.

It would be interesting to see how much battery storage California has in terms of GWh (so the total capacity – not the maximum power output).

And according to CAISO’s website, the California Public Utilities Commission’s draft preferred system plan calls for 12,000 MW [12 GW] of installed utility scale batteries by 2025.

Who’s next?

There are alternatives to battery energy storage, one of the most obvious ones being the dispatchability of hydropower. So, lessons from California should matter especially to countries/regions which cannot use the second option – because they have a low share of hydropower in overall electricity generation but good conditions for solar power. Like Australia.

China, on the other hand, does have a lot of hydroelectric capacity and is adding more (with just two recent projects, Baihetan and Wudongde, adding 26 GW of hydro capacity overall), which can be used to smooth out the intermittency of solar and wind. But still, it has laid out an ambitious plan to add gigawatts of battery storage in the coming years.

Source: [1]