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Clean energy in the Emirates

E-Mobility around the world / Guest article by WEKA Industrie Medien

The United Arab Emirates are gearing up for the post-oil era. But how quickly can you convince a region that has grown big and rich on crude oil and natural gas to buy into electric propulsion?
The good news came in late November. The Dubai authorities will continue to permit private e-car users to charge their cars for free at the city's 200 or so charging points over the next two years. Originally, the campaign would have expired at the end of this year.

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority which is responsible for the conversion to e-drives is also offering other incentives to get the population of the emirate excited about electric cars: Drivers of e-cars are exempt from registration fees, enjoy extended warranty periods, park free of charge and do not have to pay road tolls.
This campaign, called E-Sayyara, wants to bring at least 270,000 e-cars on the road by 2030. It includes luxury limousines like Teslas, prestige objects like the brand new Aston Martin Rapid E or small cars like the Twizy from Renault, which is now also available in the Middle East. “People are different. There are sports car enthusiasts, 4×4 drivers, and tree huggers,” says Ivano Ianneli, CEO of Dubai Carbon, a government-backed think tank commissioned to prepare the emirate for the post-fossil era.

Police as trendsetters

The fact that interest in e-mobility is increasing in the United Arab Emirates is also confirmed by Loay Dajani, Regional Manager of charging station supplier ABB. However, at present the main drivers of this development are institutional users. As early as 2016, all public institutions in Dubai were required to order electric or hybrid drive systems for at least ten percent of new vehicles.

The main trendsetter has been the police who keep buying new e-cars as part of a collaborative partnership with Chevrolet and have since been commissioned to convert their entire fleet to e-mobility over the next few years. "With this project, the police want to make as many people as possible aware of the benefits of electric drives,” says General Muhammad Nasser Al Razooqi who is in charge of the project.

The goals set by the Emirate's Supreme Energy Council are ambitious: By 2021, Dubai wants its CO2 emissions reduced by 16 percent compared to 2015. By 2050, they even want to be the city with the smallest CO2 footprint worldwide.

The fact that Dubai is now also one of the top hot spots when it comes to autonomous driving is also driving development in the direction of e-mobility. The goal is that a quarter of the city's traffic will be autonomous and electrically powered by 2030.

Flagship metropolis

Besides Dubai, Abu Dhabi, by far the most oil-rich of the seven United Arab Emirates, is also preparing for the post-oil era. A symbol of this development is Masdar City. A CO2-neutral science city is being built here on six square kilometers - at least that is how it is being advertised. The traffic is exclusively electric, vehicles with fossil drives are not allowed to drive into this enclave about 30 kilometers from Abu Dhabi. The power for the city's internal mobility comes from solar collectors, and wind draught is also used to cool the buildings.

The fact that Audi introduced its first fully electric car, the e-tron, at this location is indeed symbolic: The electric SUV is fit for the desert and may well appeal to the big-vehicle-loving clients on the Gulf. But this symbolism is not only positive, as critics note. Because heavy SUV models, even if they are electrically powered, are not necessarily the ideal means of transportation for the post-fossil era - they are too heavy and consume too many resources in production.

Which is, in a way, in line with Masdar-City because this flagship project is also criticized as not being a widely useable role model. In most other locations in the world, there wouldn't be enough year-round sunlight and wind to operate the monumental buildings being erected in Masdar City with even close to CO2-neutrality. And this despite the fact that Masdar City, thanks to e-mobility and its architectural design, is supposed to require only 25 percent of the energy that a comparable, but conventionally built city would consume.


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