When Mohammed drives his Tesla Model X electric car through the busy roads of Dubai, he frequently attracts attention from other motorists.
Some look at his wheels with apparent curiosity, while some even honk at him while his car is stopped at the red signal, assuming that he has mistakenly switched off the engine.
“My car makes no sound … its pure electric and I am a proud owner of it. I waited for a long time to buy this ‘green’ machine,” said Mohammed, an investment banker, who preferred to go by his first name.
When California-based Tesla opened its first luxury electric vehicle (EV) dealership in the Middle East in Dubai last summer, many car analysts expressed mixed opinions. But, so far, it has proved to be a successful move – and sales are healthy. In addition, Teslas make up part of the fleet of Dubai taxi fleet and its electric cabs, with semi-autonomous features, made 64,186 trips with a customer satisfaction rate of 97 per cent, in the first six months of their introduction, according to the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority.
EVs share of global car sales is forecast to rise from 1 per cent in 2017 to 2.5 per cent by 2020, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Thematic Investing report, which predicts that by 2050 they will constitute 90 per cent of sales.
The UAE Government is targeting up to 15 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 – and a 20 per cent adoption of EVs within its own fleet.
Dubai will spend millions of dirhams on incentives to have 42,000 EVs on its streets by 2030.
Almost all the big car makers see immense potential in the region, led by the UAE, and plan new launches of EVs in the coming years.
“General Motors is committed to a future with zero emissions, in which electric vehicles are the standard for efficient, sustainable transportation,” John Roth, president and managing director – GM Africa and Middle East, told The National.
GM expects to boost sales in the Middle East and Africa with the launch of its Chevrolet electric vehicle. It sold its first Bolt EV in the region in August this year. In addition, Dubai Police operates a small fleet of Bolt EV’s.
“The UAE is an important market for us. We are looking beyond our walls, recognising the needs of all of us for the next years in transportation, and partnered with Honda to work towards the auto industry’s first fuel cell system mass production,” stated Mr Roth. Fuel cellcars differ from battery vehicles in that they generate electricity rather than used stored eelectricity to run the motor, normally using compressed hydrogen. Most of these vehicles are classified as zero-emission as they discharge only water and heat.
Twelve electrified vehicles are currently in GM’s global portfolio and at least 20 new all-electric vehicles will be introduced by 2023 – two of which will be introduced by mid-2019. In the UAE, it is also looking to become a partner in Dubai Government’s Green Mobility Initiative that targets a 10 per cent share of EVs in government fleets by 2030.
The Chinese car maker Haval, which aims to double its sales in the UAE by capitalising on the demand for 4x4s, is planning to go big with EVs in the region.
“Electric vehicles are part of Haval’s expansion plans in the UAE. In China, we already have electric versions of Haval and by 2020 we are expecting to see similar models coming to the UAE,” Greg Cottrell, general manager of the automotive division for Swaidan Trading – the automotive division of Al Naboodah Group Enterprises, which operates the Haval dealership in the emirate, told The National.