Although electric vehicles have been around for a few years, they haven’t gained much traction in the Middle East. One could argue that the comparatively lower price of fuel in the region hasn’t helped but there is more to it. To find out why the adoption rate of electric vehicles is so low in the region as well as what is being done about it, we caught up with Ben Pullen, founder of the Global Electric Vehicle Road Trip (EVRT) event.
Ben was recently in the UAE to introduce the Emirates Electric Vehicle Road Trip, an event focused on accelerating the adoption rate of electric vehicles in the UAE. This four-day event saw a fleet of ten electric vehicles cover 700km of terrain across all seven Emirates and opened three new charging stations.
Where does the UAE stand as far as electric vehicles are concerned?
Although the UAE is at a very infant stage of this industry, it will certainly jump up to the level of its peers across the world in the very near future. The government has a strategy and has set certain policies and targets in place to accelerate the electric vehicle industry. The Dubai Supreme Council of Energy has introduced a Green Mobility Initiative, and DEWA plans to install 100 charging stations across the country.
It is [also] a nation of car and technology lovers, and electric vehicles are an exciting phenomenon that are full of new technology that people want. There are also a high number of high net worth individuals, so people don’t mind spending money on cars here.
Is the infrastructure mature enough to own and operate an electric vehicle in the UAE?
Geographically, the distance between places in the UAE is very small when compared to the UK and US. The current technology on the market is fit for the job. For example, a Tesla has a range of between 400km and 500km, and the new Renault Zoe has a range of about 400km, making the UAE a good country for electric cars. The weather conditions are also perfect for about six to eight months of the year as electric vehicles thrive in warmer climates.
Regarding the required infrastructure, that isn’t something this country needs to worry about because 99% of the time, installing a charging station at home is sufficient. Electric vehicles also don’t really depreciate in value like normal cars do - especially the Tesla. What we’re seeing is that the battery either retains or increases in value, and while the car may be worth less in 5-10 years like any other car, the battery could be worth more come that time.
What are some of the challenges a consumer can face when trying to buy an electric car in the UAE?
The first thing is for the dealers in the UAE to bring the cars here. Currently only Renault has the Renault Zoe available, and there’s only one electric vehicle renting company – we need more of those as a starting point.
Insurance for electric vehicles also needs to be developed. Currently you can’t insure an electric car full comprehensive, which makes it difficult to own such a valuable asset without having it insured. However, we are very proud to announce that the Emirates Electric Vehicle Road Trip has partnered with AXA Insurance as our official insurance partner for the event. As a market leader in motor insurance, AXA will offer differentiated and innovative insurance plans for electric vehicles in the UAE, demonstrating its commitment to support the drive towards sustainable energy.
Banks and their car financing options also need to be improved. Most of the Teslas here are paid up front and in cash, but financing mechanisms need to be put in place to encourage more people to own electric vehicles.