Dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) are promising alternatives to conventional silicon devices because of their simple fabrication procedure, low cost, and high efficiency. Platinum is generally used as a superior counter electrode (CE) material, but the disadvantages such as high cost and low abundance greatly restrict the large-scale application of DSCs. An efficient and sustainable way to overcome the limited supply of Pt is the development of high-efficiency Pt-free CE materials, which should possess both high electrical conductivity and superior electrocatalytic activity simultaneously. Herein, for the first time, a two-step strategy to synthesize ruthenium dioxide (RuO2) nanocrystals is reported, and it is shown that RuO2 catalysts exhibit promising electrocatalytic activity towards triiodide reduction, which results in comparable energy conversion efficiency to that of conventional Pt CEs. More importantly, by virtue of first-principles calculations, the catalytic mechanism of electrocatalysis for triiodide reduction on various CEs is investigated systematically and it is found that the electrochemical triiodide reduction reaction on RuO2 catalyst surfaces can be enhanced significantly, owing to the ideal combination of good electrocatalytic activity and high electrical conductivity.