Electric car
In many parts of the world, including the UAE, electric vehicles are gaining popularity. Most nameplate carmakers, as well as hundreds of new entrants, are piling into the market Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Energy transition is a fact nowadays and it is happening globally at a fast pace. The world is shifting towards low carbon emission energy sources. This requires a systematical change in all aspects of life with new, innovative, smart and clean technologies in all sectors and industries.

Transportation is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) globally and in the UAE. In 2017, the road transport emissions in the UAE amounted to 40.7 million tons of carbon dioxide, according to Statista (German major specialising in market and consumer data).

Various initiatives and programmes across the country are encouraging these shifts towards Green Mobility because transportation sector plays a vital role in decreasing the carbon footprint.

Shift towards electric

These programmes encourage the shift towards electric, hydrogen and natural gas vehicles besides promoting mass transit systems such as Dubai’s light rail system and a high-speed train.

In Dubai, for instance, a new plan earlier this year, endorsed by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), aims to make public transport emission-free by 2050. It will make Dubai the first City in the MENA region to map out a comprehensive emission-free plan for public transport and related infrastructure.

NGV (Natural Gas for Vehicles) is an alternative vehicle fuel that uses compressed natural gas (CNG) as a cleaner alternative transportation. NGV is currently used by taxis, government and personal cars in the UAE. There is an approved government decree to convert 25% of government entities vehicles to NGV.

With regard to Electric Vehicles (EVs), there are a number of challenges facing the spread of EVs globally, most notably the relatively high cost of owning an electric car, accessing charging stations, and the range of traffic on a single charge. However, these challenges have become engines for a faster spread of EVs on the streets.

UAE's bold decisions

The UAE has taken a number of bold decisions to confirm its accelerating pace in the transition towards EVs. In this context, we find that the country has succeeded in converting 20% of its fleet of cars belonging to government agencies to electric vehicles, and aims to have 42,000 electric vehicles on its streets by 2030.

Whith NGVs and hybrid car sales increasing, both are considered, by all means, a temporary solution during the energy transition period, while electric vehicles are the future of Green Mobility from a purely environmental point of view.

EVs nowadays can be driven for distances of up to 600 kilometres and more, and there are continuous innovations at an accelerating and amazing pace. However, their prices need to drop and become accessible to the ordinary citizen. There is a need to expand the number of charging points.

UAE has more than 240 charging stations for EVs throughout the country currently. In fact, UAE has the largest number of EV charging stations in the world.

The “Green Charger” initiative launched by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to provide charging stations for electric vehicles in various parts of Dubai supports the emirate’s efforts to provide innovative and environmentally friendly solutions through its contribution to reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector and supporting the Dubai Green Mobility Strategy 2030.

Growing popularity

Consequently the popularity of EVs in the UAE has grown significantly. Incentives offered by the government, banks and car dealers, has also led to the growth in the UAE’s imports of EVs and increased environmental awareness among citizens.

In Dubai, for instance, the total number of electric vehicles until the first quarter of 2021 reached 2473, while the number of hybrid vehicles reached 6016, making the total number of green vehicles registered in Dubai to 8,489 vehicles. The number of electric government cars in Dubai reached 258, while the number of hybrid government cars reached 2,653.

Electric vehicles are better for the environment with very minimum carbon emissions especially when electricity source uses renewable energies like solar or wind. Besides, they are quieter than diesel vehicles. From consumer point of view, it saves more than 50 per cent on fuel costs and it requires less expensive and less frequent maintenance.

In shorts, UAE is one of the global leaders in shifting towards Green Mobility that has several health, environmental and economic benefits with final aim to further improve the quality of life in UAE.

Dr Mohamed Abdel Raouf is an independent environmental researcher