Despite new initiatives, Dubai may not be ready to go green for cars

Published May 25th, 2015 - 03:00 GMT

Every three minutes, someone in the world switches to driving an Electric Vehicle (EV). This was revealed at a conference on electric vehicles on Sunday that saw the participation of spokespersons from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), Renault and Arabian Automobiles.

At the conference, Renault representatives said the company is now offering a full range of sustainability mobility solutions, with their three 100 percent electrical, “zero emission in use,” noise free cars — of which only one is actually in the market.

Michel Ayat, CEO of AW Rostamani Automobile-AWR Group, said, “By 2021, with 10,000 EVs, Dubai will be as green as a forest of a million trees.”

Replacing a comparable petrol car with an EV would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over two tonnes a year.

But how many people do you know who drive  — or would drive — electric cars? Especially here in Dubai when the general perception is, "why bother when fuel is cheap," everyone thinks rich, and it’s easy to buy a luxury car second hand.

In 2011, world over, one out of every 1,000 cars was an EV. Now, it’s one of out 60. In Norway, one out of five cars sold is an EV, a 17 percent market share. Here in Dubai, the government is warming up to the idea of EVs. By the end of 2015, 100 charging stations will be available in the emirate, thus creating an eco-system to enable people to drive more of these cars.

In February this year, 16 public charging stations for electric cars were inaugurated in Dubai by the Dewa, each station equipped to simultaneously charge two cars. 

Can’t register EVs

The irony, however, is that there is no standardisation authority here that even recognises EVs. There are no regulations governing EVs and there is not even a category to register them. Ayat said, “Incentives and subsidies need to be introduced by the government in order to make electric vehicles commercially viable.”

Green is the buzzword

As reiterated at the EV conference, the Emirates is keen to have more EVs on the road. So far, next to no one drives an electric car. But the message is often repeated. Along the lines of sustainability, smart city and Dubai’s vision 2021, they want people to drive more EVs.

The police own a few of these zero emission speedsters. And waste management company, Bee’ah, uses a fleet of electric-powered vehicles to collect waste and keep garbage off the streets. In November 2014, Bee’ah signed a contract with Italian company Alkè to buy the first 10 eco-friendly electric units, specially made for waste collection from cities, sports centres, airports, camping sites and tourism villages.

Showroom-speak

If managers of car show rooms, and auto dealerships in Dubai are to be believed, the Emirates is the land of fast cars, with the onus on speed and luxury, not so much on ‘green’ and eco-friendly.

On Shaikh Zayed Road, a sales executive at a dealership site told Khaleej Times that the two-seater Renault Twizy is the one e-car available, and can be delivered to customers in three to seven days. “We barely sell three units a month, and mostly to Dubai Police and Shaikhs.”

The car costs Dh77,900 ($21,208), and drives at about 75km/h. And with one charge, it can cover 85km.

EVs are not cheap.  But in the land of fancy wheels, money for several aficionados is no criterion. In the case of the Renault Zoe, the battery costs 40 percent of the car’s price, which is around €7,000 ($7,680) to € 9,000 ($9,880).

Toyota doesn’t stock e-cars for the region. A retail supervisor at Toyota, not authorised to speak to the media, said, “No, we don’t have e-cars as of now, but we plan to bring them in ... it will pick up ... We might even have Toyota taxis that are e-cars.”

Infiniti doesn’t have e-cars either. Nor does Nissan. The previously owned market for e-cars is similarly dismal.

‘No demand’

Sales manager of used car dealership called Exotic Cars, Sherwin Patel, told Khaleej Times, “There is not really much of a demand for e-cars. We used to have the Fisker Karma, but that stopped — there was no demand.”

Patel has driven a range of e-cars, including the "super cars" such as the Porsche 918 Spider, the Fisker Karma and Rimac, one of the fastest e-cars.

With the government going out of its way to push for e-cars and installing charging points, maybe the ground reality will change.

By Nivriti Butalia


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