Bring on the electric drive - Dubai has signed up to be an early adopter of whatever changes come about in an increasingly battery-dependent automotive industry.
The city has assigned targets - and fairly ambitious ones too - on the level of non-fuel operated vehicles that should power its public transportation fleets. At the same time, it has been rolling out extremely generous incentives for individuals to tap into electric-powered vehicles. And not just among those who can afford a Tesla Model S (from $90,000 (Dh330,570) ) or Model X ($90,000 and well above). Or even BMW’s iconic i8 sportscar with a price tag in the upper reaches of $140,000 plus.
But for a much wider adoption rates among its residents, Dubai and the UAE will need not just more accessibly priced electric models from all sorts of manufacturers. Its cities will need a broad network of fast/overnight charging points as well.
This is where it will require more strategic longer term planning. Putting them across the highways will be the easy part. But doing the same in extremely high-density city neighbourhoods come with their own unique set of challenges.
“If we assume more residents are going to start buying electric cars, we will need to start planning for having more charging facilities available around apartment blocks,” said Michel Ayat, CEO of AWR Automotive. “The market for electric cars will not grow if only villa owners/tenants are catered to. That to me is the biggest challenge for faster adoption rates for electric.
“Dubai Government has already announced multiple incentives to increase offtake - customs duty hopefully will not be applied. VAT isn’t. DEWA has said that such car owners can have their electricity for free, and parking in the city is free.
“But if villa owners represent the first wave of the UAE’s future electric revolution, the planning needs to be in place for the second wave... and that means the apartment owners and tenants.”
Some developers have already installed multiple charging docks in their communities. Dubai Sustainable City (in Dubailand) is one such, and it sure makes sense for a project that is built around alternate energy and renewables.
These chargers are also finding a place at other “horizontal” communities. But when the buildings and clusters turn vertical, there’s work to do.
So, who should take responsibility for installing the charging points? The developer? Or should that be the car dealership?
According to K. Rajaram, CEO of Al Nabooda Automobiles, “I as a dealer don’t mind putting in a free charging station near high-rise towers - but the developer must give the permission and without charging me rentals for that. We live in a high-rise society in Dubai. Or are building owners going to start providing the charging stations?
“It’s not going to be an easy process - just recently I had a friend having to stay in line for three-and-half hours to get a re-charge on his car.
“It should be easy for the individual buyer living in an apartment to own the car. If it’s a villa, he can just plug in and charge overnight. You can take it from any 220kv. It takes time, but you have the whole night.
“When car owners are able to do so in the same time it takes to fill a full tank with petrol, that’s when electric cars go mass market.”