GMC Hummer EV
The EV Green Charger initiative, launched by Dewa, provides a network of electric vehicle chargers across Dubai Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

As the UAE commemorates its Union Day this year, the celebrations coincide with a momentous global event — the commencement of COP28. This convergence marks a crucial juncture where the nation’s strides in sustainability are highlighted and aligned with the global discourse on climate action. At the heart of the UAE’s sustainability journey is its firm pledge towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and its ambitious goal of electrifying half of its entire vehicular fleet by that time.

The National Electric Vehicles Policy of the UAE aims to foster collaboration between federal and local partners alongside the private sector and to establish a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers. Aligned with this ambitious policy are several important goals, including a targeted 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption within the transport sector. The creation of a centralised database for EV charging stations aims to streamline the charging process, ensuring convenience for electric vehicle users. The Global EV Market project launched in May this year positions the UAE as a global hub for electric vehicles. This initiative not only champions the shift towards green mobility but also sets an ambitious target of achieving 50 per cent EV penetration on UAE roads by 2050.

Major players in the automotive industry have aligned their strategies with the UAE’s vision for a greener future and embarked on aggressive electrification drives. These companies have pledged significant investments in research, development, and production of electric vehicles (EVs), signalling a transformative shift toward eco-friendly transportation solutions.

Revving up EV production

“Aligned with the UAE’s 2050 Net Zero ambition and goal to have 50 per cent of all vehicles to be electric by 2030, we’re driving progress towards a future where sustainable transportation is an integral part of daily life,” says Jack Uppal, President and Managing Director of General Motors (GM) Africa & Middle East. Uppal points out that GM is focused on delivering the widest range of EVs, accompanied by cutting-edge in-vehicle connectivity, spearheading an electric revolution in the Middle East, and bringing customers EVs for all needs and price points. “This is a testament to how we are working to make our vision for the future of mobility a reality in the UAE and the region,” he adds.

Meanwhile, German auto major Porsche has set its sights higher, with an even more ambitious goal for electrification. “Our electrification ambition is to sell more than 80 per cent of our new vehicles fully electrified in 2030 – depending on the demand of our customers and the development of electromobility in the respective regions of the world,” says Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa.

Manfred Bräunl, CEO of Porsche Middle East and Africa

“The Porsche-owned production sites in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen and Leipzig and the research and development centre in Weissach already operate on a net carbon neutral basis today,” he adds.

Collaborations between automobile companies and local entities have been key in fostering an ecosystem conducive to green motoring and laying the groundwork for a sustainable transportation network. “We regularly have discussions with stakeholders regarding electric vehicles and related infrastructure. We have already launched the all-electric Taycan four-door sports car across the region. This will be followed by the all-electric Macan in 2024,” says Bräunl from Porsche.

Some examples of these partnerships include General Motors’ collaboration with Al Wegdaniya Transport to explore leasing opportunities for their public and private clientele. More recently, the American automaker collaborated with e&’s electric charging network, Charge&Go, at GITEX Global and WETEX 2023, showcasing the GMC Hummer EV.

Jack Uppal, President, and Managing Director of GM Africa & Middle East

Crucially, the UAE’s policies and incentives catalyse the shift toward sustainable mobility. Incentives such as reduced registration fees, toll and parking exemptions, and EV purchase subsidies have encouraged more consumers to embrace eco-friendly alternatives. Additionally, forward-thinking regulatory frameworks and initiatives promoting collaboration among industry leaders, government bodies, and local entities have further bolstered the nation’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Driving change

“While we have the technology in place, we need to work collaboratively with local regulators to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to accommodate the arrival of our EV portfolio,” says Uppal. “What’s important is to work with the visionary governments of the region to enable an increase in the charging infrastructure, both, in urban areas and on highway corridors, and Dubai has been a clear leader in that roll out.”

Beyond infrastructure and policies, another critical aspect that will have a bearing on a nation’s sustainable mobility strategy is the need to raise awareness among consumers. Educating the public about the significance of sustainable practices and fostering an eco-conscious approach to driving is essential. Through targeted awareness campaigns and educational initiatives, the UAE aims to instil a mindset shift, emphasising the long-term benefits of embracing green motoring. Auto brands are also engaging with their customers to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable practices or to encourage a more eco-conscious approach to driving among enthusiasts.

“As we broaden the avenues for consumer engagement in electrified transportation, we recognise the ongoing need to educate the public on the benefits of exploring alternative power sources, aligning with our regional ambidextrous strategy,” says GM’s Uppal. The brand focuses on steering cities toward sustainable mobility, especially involving the youth, and preparing them for green jobs. It is encouraging transparent conversations towards electrification through collaborations with institutions like the Arab Youth Centre, Harvard Business Review Arabia, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), and Sharjah Research & Tech Innovation Park.

“Through collaborative education, we aim to drive mindset shifts, foster innovation, alleviate concerns, address infrastructure needs, and encourage youth adoption,” Uppal says.

Porsche’s messaging on the other hand focuses on how they have preserved the essence of their iconic sports cars, even as they embark on their electrification journey. Emphasising that an all-electric Porsche remains true to its heritage, the brand stresses that a transition to electric models does not compromise the quintessential attributes that define a Porsche. “An all-electric Porsche is still a true Porsche sports car. As we have shown with the Taycan, our BEV models deliver all the luxury and performance attributes our owners expect from a Porsche. Our cars will continue to be the sports cars that people dream of owning, regardless of the power train. This is our strong message with our products moving forward, that they swill still be desirable even as we transition to more and more all-electric models,” says Bräunl.

The future of green motoring in the UAE appears promising. Ambitious plans to expand charging infrastructure, coupled with research and development efforts, signal a path towards reducing reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating environmental impact. With its steadfast focus on sustainability, the nation is accelerating towards a green horizon, laying the foundation for a future where eco-conscious driving is not just a choice but a way of life. ●