Dubai: Half of Dubai’s taxi fleet will be hybrid vehicles by 2021, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced on Saturday.

Up from the current hybrid fleet size of around 150 hybrid taxis, the number will rise to 4,750 in five years.

The hybrid vehicles are powered by a combination of electricity and petrol. The vehicle runs on a self-charging electric motor when it is driven within a speed of 40km/h, exceeding which it shifts to petrol.

This translates to a reduction of carbon emissions by up to 30 per cent, compared to a regular vehicle.

According to Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of RTA, the move is part of a master plan to reduce carbon emissions of the taxi sector by 2 per cent to fulfil the requirements of the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy, and support Dubai’s Green Economy drive.

The deregulation of fuel prices, and the low life cycle cost of hybrid vehicles compared with normal vehicles, also prompted the decision.

“The plan encompasses beefing up the fleet of hybrid taxicabs in Dubai from 147 in 2015 to 791 taxicabs by 2016, 1,582 taxicabs by 2017, 2,375 taxicabs by 2018, 3,167 taxicabs by 2019, 3,959 taxicabs by 2020, and to further increase the number to 4,750 hybrid taxicabs by 2021,” said Al Tayer.

The bulk of the hybrid fleet will be operated by Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC), a subsidiary of RTA with as many as 2,280 cabs, followed by Cars Taxi with 900 cabs while National Taxi will roll out 812 cabs.

The rest of the hybrid taxis will be operated by Arabia Taxi (463 cabs), Metro Taxi (377 cabs), and City Taxi (18 cabs).

“RTA is endeavouring to bring about a quantum shift in the infrastructure of mass transit systems to make them environment-friendly, and accommodate the rising demand for transit means in the emirate,” said Al Tayer.

RTA was the first entity in the region to trial hybrid vehicles as part of the taxi fleet in 2008.

“Results of the trial operation of hybrid taxis conducted by DTC since 2008 indicated that they help reduce carbon emissions by 34 per cent, slashing fuel consumption by 33 per cent, besides cutting maintenance costs due to the low mechanical faults, and curbing noise levels,” he added.

According to an RTA study replacing all taxicabs in Dubai with hybrid cabs would reduce carbon emissions by 230,000 tonnes per annum, which translates into savings of about Dh170 million.

As part of a major policy decision, RTA has undertaken a host of eco-friendly initiatives in the recent past to help improve Dubai’s carbon footprint.

Last year, RTA started the trial run of an electric-powered bus that is operated through rechargeable batteries. The battery can be recharged in less than 30 minutes, and the bus can travel up to 200km with a fully charged battery.

RTA has also introduced CNG-powered abras which will gradually replace diesel-powered abras on Dubai Creek. Seventeen electric-powered abras as well as five modern abras featuring a heritage-inspired design, powered by high-octane benzene are also in operation. A trial run of a solar-powered abra also got under way recently.

RTA has also introduced LED street lighting to help reduce carbon emissions. The project resulted in reduction of the carbon footprint by more than 3,000 tonnes per annum.

By 2030, RTA is planning to replace all street lights with LED lights, which would reduce the carbon footprint of RTA’s operations by about 27,000 mega tonnes of carbon.