This is part 3 of our road trip through the remote highlands of Iceland with the Audi e-tron. In case you missed it, you can find the start of our adventure here.
After spending the night in Akureyri we continued our trip along the ring road 1 to the west.
Next, we wanted to cross the western highlands of Iceland along the famous Kjölur track.
The F35 (or officially now 35) is known as Kjölur or Kalvegur and crosses the western highlands from north to south. It is historically the most important highland track in Iceland. The tribes in the north used this track to reach the yearly Alþing meeting at Þingvellir.
It’s not a difficult track to drive. Nearly all rivers have bridges, and there are no steep sections. It’s still a rough gravel track and a robust vehicle with high ground clearance is recommended. But you don’t need a 4×4 as long as you stay on the main track and don’t plan to do any side-track excursions.
The biggest challenge for an EV is its long distance without any charging infrastructure. The Kjölur itself is only 160 km, but if you take into account that there are no chargers directly at the start and the end, as well as that you need some additional km to visit some of the highlights along the track like Hveravellir and Kerlingarfjöll the realistic distance between two charges is more in the range of 250 km. And that’s clearly at the absolute limit of the e-tron running on MT tires on a rough mountain track.
Therefore we were a bit nervous about whether we would manage the track. Worst case we had a towing rope. Since the Kjölur is (at least compared to other highland tracks) highly frequented, we should be able to find a solution even if we wouldn’t manage it to reach the next charger at the end of the track.
But we had to be 100% sure that our EV was as fully charged as possible at the start of the track.
At Varmahlíð, about 30 km before the Kjölur track, you can find a fast 150 kW DC charger. Sadly all attempts to activate this charger failed. We tried the Plugsurfing card, the Plugsurfing chip, the QR code on the charger, and the website of the provider. Nothing worked.
Finally, after calling the hotline and a couple of reboots of the charger we found a solution. The customer service was able (and willing) to start the charging remotely. On our trip to the North Cape last year we had to use this option a couple of times. Whether the customer service is willing to do this depends a lot on which country you are in. In Germany they always refused to do this while in Scandinavia it was never a problem. Luckily Iceland seems to be closer to Scandinavia than to Germany.
In Húnaver, 8 km before the start of the Kjölur, was another charger shown in the PlugShare app. It was a bit difficult to find, hidden behind a building on an abandoned campground. There were no signs there and everything was closed.
But luckily the 11 kW AC charger was nevertheless working. In 34 minutes we charged from 94% back to 100% and afterwards started our trip on the Kjölur.
Halfway on the Kjölur (80 km from the start of the track), you can find the geothermal area of Hveravellir. There is also a mountain hut where we spent the night. But there was no chance to re-charge the e-tron at Hveravellir.
In the evening we explored the short trails through the beautiful geothermal field.
We finished the day at Hveravellir with a bath in the hot pool and a nice dinner at the local restaurant.
The next day, we continued our trip on the Kjölur.
After 30 km there is a junction to the F347 to Kerlingarfjöll. This sidetrack is far more difficult to drive than the Kjölur. There are still no deep fords but a couple of really steep sections. You definitely need a 4×4 to reach Kerlingarfjöll.
But if you have the right car it’s definitely worth the effort. Kerlingarföll is an extremely difficult mountain range with intense red and orange colors.
The e-tron, lifted in the offroad mode of the air suspension, had no problems with the terrain. But the remaining range reached critical levels. The Audi navigation and charge planning system indicated that we would reach the charger at Haukadalur with less than 5%. We know that a large part of the remaining track will go downhill and therefore this indication is likely very pessimistic. But we didn’t want to risk too much and therefore decided to turn around on the Kerlingarfjöll track at some of the lovely viewpoints before reaching the final end of this sidetrack. Since we had visited Kerlingarfjöll already three times on past trips we weren’t too disappointed.
Finally, 220 km after the charge in Húnaver we reached the 50 kW DC charger at the Geysir in Haukadalur. The remaining charge status was still 26%. We could have easily driven to the end of the Kerlingarfjöll track and would still have enough buffer to be on the safe side. Next time, we’ll know better.
At Haukadalur you can find the well-known geothermal field with some colorful hot pools and the famous Geysir Strokkur which erupts every 10 minutes and reaches a height of 35 m. Since this spot is close to Reykjavik and part of the ‘Golden Circle’ you sadly have to share this experience with hundreds of other visitors.
Therefore we left this place quickly after the e-tron was fully charged and continued to the Þingvellir National Park.
Besides its historical meaning (the first parliament was founded here) Þingvellir is also geologically very interesting. There is a rift between the Eurasian plate and the North-American plate which extends every year by about 1-2cm.
But for us, the highlight in the Þingvellir National Park is the underwater world of the Silfra rift.
The fresh water in this rift is filtered for more than 100 years through countless layers of lava. The result is the clearest water in the world with underwater visibility of more than 130 m. The only downside for snorkeling and scuba diving is the year-round water temperature of 2°C. I did some serious underwater photography at this place in the past. You can check out my underwater gallery here if you are interested. This time I only used my action cam for some quick snapshots from the bank.
The third episode of my videos series is now online on YouTube:
In the next part, we will explore the Kaldialur track in the western highlands, visit Reykjavik and hike to an active volcano.