The EVs are already here, and there will be more of them in times to come for people to use. But there's much more transportation can help with sustainability. Image Credit: Shutterstock

As the UAE prepares to host COP28, it has pitched this as a moment to find ‘realistic, practical, and pragmatic solutions to accelerate the global energy transition’.

Not a stranger to the topic, the UAE has long been a supporter of the global climate agenda, leading the conversation around energy and sustainability sectors. That being said, the question of how best to approach emissions is a topic requiring further exploration.

The decisions made now will have profound implications for the transport industry. Beyond the rise of electric vehicles (EVs), one area of focus is how we incentivize sustainable transport to make it more inclusive and accessible for communities at large?

Incentivizing green options

It’s simple: in an era of economic uncertainty, people are looking to save costs wherever possible. Sustainable transport is the need of the hour, and the private sector must find solutions to grow their business, without putting the planet’s health at stake.

The onus is on us to innovate. For example, reducing the fares of environment-friendly ride-sharing options to encourage more riders to opt for the option. This is an incentive for riders to choose a 100 per cent electric vehicle with zero exhaust emissions.

Setting ambitious goals

Within our region, and the UAE specifically, we are no stranger to setting ambitious goals and even achieving them. Last year, we committed to having one in four trips booked in the UAE emission-free by 2030.

This can be a big driver in fostering innovation and accelerate advancements in EVs. Ambitious goals often also demand ambitious collaboration, creating an environment for stakeholders to come together, and pool resources, expertise, and knowledge to develop more comprehensive and scalable solutions.

More importantly, it can create a sense of urgency and encourage more people to consider environmentally-friendly alternatives, shaping public behavior and attitudes in the long-term.

Facilitating knowledge transfer

With alternative solutions, innovative approaches are key. Sustainable transport is still relatively new territory within the region, and so further education and new strategies are necessary. Governments don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but they can learn from other countries’ examples and apply them to local settings. The private sector also has a role to play. Policies such as the Zero Emission Transport Association (ZETA), which is the first industry-backed coalition of its kind, help bring private sector players together to boost the switch to EVs.

Specifically, it advocates for 100 per cent EV sales by 2030, and as a member of the coalition, we’re actively driving contribution in this direction through relevant partnerships and expanding our hybrid and EV products. Ultimately, the public and private sector must work in lockstep.

Product innovation

Innovative products and technologies can optimize the efficiency of ride-sharing services. Whether that’s route optimization algorithms, or more investment in EVs and hybrids, we can push the boundaries of technology and design to reduce emissions and promote shared mobility.

For instance, we can look into in-app features that recommend nearby charging stations, provide an EV charging map, connect the app to the EV to assist drivers with planning earnings according to a vehicle’s battery levels, and many more widgets.

Find synergies with public transport

Ultimately, we need to think about replacing private cars with better access to shared, electric mobility built around public transport: an integrated system of various modes of transport, accessible through technology. Public transit is the backbone of any city and indispensable for moving more people around efficiently, preventing congestion, and limiting pollution. Initiatives in expanding the public transport within the UAE are pivotal steps forward towards this goal, and private services such as those requested via ride-sharing apps, and specifically electric vehicles, could complement public-transit systems.

Bikes and scooters are also becoming increasingly sustainable options to move around but those too need the right infrastructure and policies - well-connected bike lanes for example - so that they can truly become part of the transport infrastructure. There is still some work to be done to make sustainable transport more accessible in a region highly dependent on petroleum, but new business models powered by new energy will help rethink transport, tech, and urban mobility.

The potential for tech to play a transformational role in mobility is truly exciting, and especially in a region like ours that is very open to innovation - the possibilities are endless.