Brrrr. It can get very cold in Iceland, especially when there’s one of the world’s most severe financial crises underway. Iceland’s banks didn’t just fail, they blew up spectacularly, with a huge debt owned to small investors all over Europe.

I’ve been to Iceland twice, and found it both very hospitable and ultra-sophisticated, with a lifestyle akin to Switzerland — and similarly expensive. I sat in an Internet coffeehouse (see below) and sipped $10 cappucino while people around me talked, in four languages, about Noam Chomsky and renewable energy. I can’t imagine what it’s like now that the Icelandic crown has lost half its value, inflation has reached 19 percent and job loss is epidemic.

Iceland coffee house

Both times I visited Iceland I checked in on its budding hydrogen infrastructure (as well as its abundant geothermal, of course). The tiny country of just 300,000 people wanted to have the world’s first hydrogen energy infrastructure, and with Shell set up a filling station in Reykjavik and started a three-year very successful experiment running fuel-cell buses, then a small fleet of Toyota Priuses altered to run on liquid hydrogen (more problematic, because of the cold weather). The plan was to eventually run Iceland’s vital fishing fleet on hydrogen (only one boat runs partly on it now).

At the Shell station, a large graphic meter showed Iceland’s progress in reaching its fuel-cell goals. Even when I was there, it had fallen a little behind the targets, but now the 2030 transition date has been moved to 2040.

Maybe battery EVs will be more suitable to Iceland when it gets on its feet again. The country announced last September (before the crash) that it was teaming up with Mitsubishi Motors to be one of the first to offer the tiny and impossibly cute i-MiEVelectric cars, which have a range of up to 100 miles. Iceland could theoretically service its whole population with a relatively small number of charging stations. Even the 840-mile ring road could probably get by with just 15 of them.

Jim Motavalli ( @jmotavalli ) writes about cars, technology and the environmental world to anyone curious enough to ask.

Deep freeze: Iceland's hydrogen push cools off
The economy is in free fall, but this tiny country is still very energy conscious.