Mohammad Al Qamzi inspects a Toyota hybrid car following the handover by Al Futtaim Motors to Tawasul. Image Credit: Courtesy: Integrated Transport Centre

Abu Dhabi: By the end of the year, more than 1,000 taxis in the emirate of Abu Dhabi will run on a combination of electric power and traditional fuel, it was announced in the capital on Thursday.

The hybrid vehicles are being purchased by taxi franchisee, Tawasul Transportation Company, to replace their entire fleet of 1,347 conventional fuel-powered vehicles; 852 of these hybrid cars have already been delivered to them, Mohammad Al Qamzi, general manager at the Department of Transport’s Integrated Transport Centre, told Gulf News.

“The hybrid vehicles offer 70 per cent better fuel efficiency compared to cars running only on petrol. In addition, it is easier to maintain hybrid vehicles due to less wear and tear of the engine,” Al Qamzi explained.

“While there is an initial investment involved, switching to hybrid vehicles makes long-term financial sense for our taxi franchisees, and we hope that the rest will soon follow suit,” he added.

Al Qamzi was speaking on the sidelines of a press conference at which Toyota’s UAE dealer, Al Futtaim Motors, announced the handover of the first set of hybrid vehicles to Tawasul.

Taxis in Abu Dhabi

There are currently a total of 6,147 taxis in the emirate, operated by eight different franchisees and regulated by the Integrated Transport Centre. Along with the emirate’s bus services, the taxi fleets make up the emirate’s public transport system.

As displayed at Thursday’s event, the new cars are all Toyota Camry hybrid vehicles, which run for 26 kilometres per litre of petrol. In comparison, a 2.5-litre petrol-engine Camry can only run 17 kilometres per litre. Company executives announced that the 852 vehicles will therefore collectively help reduce 44 million kilograms of carbon emissions during their life cycle.

“Fuel is one of the biggest expenses for any taxi operator, and this is why switching to hybrid vehicles will help reduce their operating costs. As far as I understand, the vehicles can also run entirely on electric power, with zero fuel consumption, during short trips within the city,” Al Qamzi explained.

The hybrid vehicles also have another innovative feature: their batteries are charged automatically by the petrol engine, or when braking and decelerating, and this eliminates the need to plug in with a power cable for charging.

When the entire fleet is replaced with hybrid vehicles, Tawasul, a subsidiary of Das Holding Group of Companies, will become the emirate’s largest hybrid fleet operator.

“With the addition of our first batch of electric taxis, we aim to provide more eco-conscious travel solutions that will support the UAE government’s green initiatives. This order came on the heels of a previous set of 50 previous generation Camry hybrid vehicles in 2017, a move that proved to be sensible at all levels, especially from a sustainability perspective,” said Jumaa Al Kaabi, general manager at Tawasul.

Earlier this week, it was announced that another franchisee, Arabia Taxi, had also received 454 Toyota hybrid vehicles. Since Arabia Taxi operates in multiple emirates, including Abu Dhabi, these hybrid vehicles will be distributed across their various operational bases.

Pay taxi fares by card soon

Cashless payments are becoming the norm in the UAE, and Abu Dhabi emirate’s taxis may soon offer the same convenience to commuters.

Speaking to Gulf News, Mohammad Al Qamzi, general manager at the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport’s taxi regulation department, the Integrated Transport Centre, said it was working with franchisees to offer card-based payments in taxis by the end of the year.

Commuters have long wanted the option to make card-based payments when travelling by taxi, especially as it is often hard to find the exact change needed to pay the fare. Ride-hailing services like Careem that operate in Abu Dhabi already offer this cashless option.

“It is something we have been wanting to implement for a while now. At present, we are updating the taximeters across the fleets, and this cashless payment option could well be included in the updates,” Al Qamzi said.

Already, many vehicles include advanced taximeters that allow drivers to use GPS and maps. This feature was not a part of the older raft of taximeters used in Abu Dhabi taxi, and it will allow drivers to take commuters to their destinations with greater ease. Al Qamzi added that the smartphone application to book a taxi will also see further updates.