The Phoenix SUT is a full-featured, all-electric pick-up truck that can serve as a direct, cost-efficient replacement for standard passenger cars and light-duty trucks for just $75,000 Image Credit: Francois Nel, Gulf News

Dubai: UAE drivers may soon be able to buy an electric vehicle locally for the first time.

The Al Yousuf UAE business group president Eqbal Al Yousuf said the company was about to launch its first prototype of what it describes as a non-polluting series of electric vehicle, which was being engineered in the US.

Al Yousuf said: "The Phoenix sport utility truck [SUT] is a fully featured, all-electric pick-up truck that can serve as a direct cost-efficient replacement for standard passenger cars and light duty trucks for $75,000 (Dh275,415).

"We are still in the test phase and produced three cars of two models, two-wheel drive and full-time four-wheel-drive," he said.

Al Yousuf added that the 35,000-watt motor operated like a normal engine but it did not use petrol or oil. And with its extended-range configuration, the Phoenix SUT could drive more than 100 miles [160 km] on a single $3 electric charge.

Recharge time

The vehicle could be recharged at home in just five hours — or in just 10 minutes at a recharging station if one was available, he said.

The vehicle, which weighs two tons, is made with the body of the Korean Ssangyong LS, and a lithium battery which weighs 450 kg and can last for 10 years according to laboratory tests.

"Bringing the SUT to the UAE market is not just passion toward this new product but it is a belief in the importance of technology to improve our life and the way technology can evolve to serve humanity," Al Yousuf said.

"We invested around Dh100 million in the past year to produce this good, clean, fun, safe kind of electric and low-emission vehicle that we offer for sale to the individual and businesses.

"I can see the future where there are no fumes and no ear protectors, which means better health for everyone nearby whether indoors or outdoors."

From the outside, it is hard to tell the Phoenix is an electric vehicle. Electric cars are usually created by converting a gasoline-powered car, in which case it is impossible to tell the two apart. When driving an electric car, often the only clue to its true nature is the fact that it is silent.

After becoming a shareholder in Phoenix Motorcars two years ago, Al Yousuf today owns the company which claims it has been leading the electric-vehicle market in the US, after the company went bankrupt during the global economic crisis.

Al Yousuf said: "I have been searching and looking for this type of technology for a long time and the electric vehicle is a new concept not only in the Middle East but world wide."

Celebrity endorsement

Al Yousuf said that three years ago Phoenix was the only company in the US which was offering a driveable electric car. George Bush drove it two years ago, Al Yousuf added.

Al Yousuf said he was hoping to manufacture the vehicles in the UAE and he was looking for a partner for the project. He said he was also seeking the same type of government support which auto companies enjoyed in the US.

"If we got the partner who is really concerned in this industry and believes in the technology evolution we are capable of starting our production line in six months. It is the best time to invest in this new technology," Al Yousuf said.

"There is a good demand for this vehicle and we are planning to sell it to fleet customers in the ports, airports and military sectors."

Although the electric car is safer than a petrol vehicle, Al Yousuf said manufacturers prefer the vehicles to be used in a closed environment and on campuses.

Truck specifications

The Phoenix SUT features a sturdy all-electric drive system which is ideal for the toughest fleet applications, Al Yousuf says.

  • Drive-train: Electric Drive system
  • Top Speed: 128 kph (computer-controlled)
  • Battery Chemistry: Lithium
  • Charge Time (standard): 5 to 6 hours from 220V power
  • Charge Time (rapid): 1 hour with external charger
  • Driving Range (per charge): 112 + kilometres
  • Motor Type: AC Induction
  • Power Rating (total): 160 horsepower
  • Torque Rating (total): 367 foot lbs
  • Overall Length: 195.5 in / 4,965 mm
  • Overall Width: 74.8 in / 1,900 mm
  • Overall Height: 69 in / 1,755 mm
  • Wheel Base: 120.5 in / 3,060 mm
  • Gross Vehicle Weight: 5,820 lbs / 2,639 kg

Vehicle durability

The smaller number of parts used in their manufacture make electric vehicles more durable than their petrol-driven counterparts. While the average number of parts used in petrol cars is 3,000, electric cars use only 120, minimisisng the possibility of breakdowns due to wear, Al Yousuf UAE group president Eqbal Al Yousuf said.

Besides, the petrol engine, which has not evolved from its basic operational model since the time it was invented, has reached its peak in terms of fuel efficiency. "There is now no alternative to electric vehicles in terms of using less resources," he said.

"We will manufacture electric vehicles suitable for highway driving or neighbourhood runs. Their absence of emissions also make them suitable for use in enclosed environments. Plus, of course, you spend less on fuel and maintenance."

In terms of safety, Al Yousuf said the Phoenix is safer than the conventional engine because it has a lithium battery, "one of the best batteries in the world", which is not flammable. If the battery overheats, the battery management system steps in to prevent a flameout.

The engine is an "instant on-off", he said, with no time or fuel wasted in warming up. The vehicle needs no oil and filter changes or even servicing. "It can be repaired like any computer," Al Yousuf said.

"The Phoenix is a complex, well-designed vehicle that can cope with the highest pressures of different roads and driving styles," he said.

As a companion piece to the Phoenix, the company plans to produce an electric motorcycle which will be sold for Dh3,000 a-piece. The 500-watt cycles can go 30 kilometres on a three-hour charge worth only 10 fils, he said.