Flipping the switch on the first Emirates Electric Vehicle Road Trip
Four Tesla Model S cars, a Renault Zoe, far left, and a Tesla Model X, with its falcon-wing doors open, centre, on the Emirates EVRT, near Jebel Jais. Courtesy James Wight / Global EVRT
In the land of four-wheel drives and supercars, the petrol engine is king. But it doesn’t have to be that way, say the region’s small but growing community of electric-vehicle (EV) owners.
Mohamed Alfahhad, owner of a Tesla Model S P85D, and the first person to import an electric vehicle into Saudi Arabia, recently joined five other UAE-based Tesla owners, three Renault Zoe drivers and a globetrotting Dutch sustainability advocate in his retrofitted 2009 Volkswagen Golf for the inaugural Emirates Electric Vehicle Road Trip (EVRT) last week, part of a global initiative to raise awareness of sustainable energy.
Alfahhad had to ship his battery-¬run pride and joy to Dubai on a trailer because of an absence of charging stations between Saudi Arabia and here. He’s one of the most enthusiastic "volt-heads" around.
"You plug it in at home, just like a phone; charge and go. What’s not to love?" he says. Although speed-lovers might also note that the car can accelerate faster than a Bugatti Veyron, taking 2.8 seconds to go from 0 to 60kph with a top speed of 250kph.
Road to sustainability
The four-day Emirates-wide tour was the brainchild of Ben Pullen, founder and managing director of Global EVRT, the company behind the idea to bring the road trip to the UAE for the first time. The event had the dual goal of raising awareness of the potential for EV adoption in the region and accelerating the low-carbon future agenda, as well as launching a series of charging stations sponsored by the French energy company Engie at hotel locations in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Abu Dhabi.
With the number of vehicles on the road in the UAE doubling from 2006 to 2014, Pullen believes the Emirates is primed to lead the way in green solutions to sustainable-transportation challenges. "With year-round sunshine and as a country where people love their cars, Dubai, and the UAE, is probably the best place in the world for EVs, especially with advancements in solar-energy technology," he says.
"With the additional charging stations, this opens up the UAE roads to over 750 kilometres of EV driving, without having to worry about if and where you can charge."
Engie’s 10 new charging stations will add to more than 100 Dewa-¬installed stations in Dubai, and Sharjah’s first two locations, launched by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) last year.
Charging a Tesla. Courtesy James Wight / Global EVRT
"From a cost perspective, if we charge the Renault Zoe, which has a 42kW battery, multiplied by the Dewa rate of 29 fils [per kW], this works out at [a total of] Dh12 with a range of up to 350 kilometres," Pullen says.
The Tesla Model S and ¬Model X, with its falcon-wing doors that conjure memories of the iconic DeLorean DMC-12 used in Back to the Future, obviously come with a hefty price tag, and these examples are all direct imports.
"The economics are there in the long run, but at this point this isn’t the driving factor, it’s simply that these are incredible cars," Pullen says.
Renault Zoe owner Salman ¬Hussain, from Dubai, found his car on Dubizzle, and signed up for the road trip partly to see whether his 120km limited-range vehicle could make it all the way (it did), and to be part of the movement to demonstrate EVs as a sustainable business model. "Dewa has installed lots of charging stations, but as yet, the car distributors aren’t up to speed in terms of their offerings. The Zoe is great, but at some point I will be looking for something in the bigger capacity range," he says.
Leading the charge
Date : 2/8/2017 4:10:59 PM