Electric cars shift into new gear in Gulf

Adoption of electric cars is set to enter the fast lane in the Arabian Gulf region,experts say. (Reuters)
Updated 31 August 2017

Electric cars shift into new gear in Gulf

LONDON: Gas-guzzling motors may be commonplace in the Gulf, but an era of electric cars whizzing along the region’s superhighways is just around the corner.
Cheap fuel and the love of fast, luxurious automobiles in the region has meant that drivers have been relatively slow to shift to electric vehicles — especially compared to their counterparts in markets like China.
But adoption of electric cars is set to enter the fast lane in the Gulf, especially in tech-savvy urban hubs like Dubai, experts say.
“The interest in e-mobility in the Middle East is steadily increasing,” Loay Dajani, head of electrification products at ABB Middle East and Africa, told Arab News.
ABB produces the charging units for electric cars. In the Middle East, the company made its first installations in Jordan about two years ago and has since secured a contract with a UAE government entity. It is set to install new units in the country in the next few months.
China is currently the dominant force in the global electric vehicle (EV) market, and is a key market for many car producers. More than 40 percent of 2016 global electric-car sales were made in China, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global EV Outlook 2017.
The dominance of China is further evidenced by the flurry of deals signed in recent weeks between global car manufacturers and the Asian country. On Aug. 29, Renault-Nissan announced plans to build electric cars in China via a joint-venture signed with Dongfeng Motor. This agreement came the week after the US car manufacturer Ford signed a deal to create a 50-50 joint venture with a Chinese domestic company called Anhui Zotye Automobile with the aim of manufacturing all-electric cars.
While the Gulf region in no way offers quite the same potential as China for car manufacturers, it would also be a mistake to assume the region has no interest in EVs. Indeed, many automakers and technology companies are eager to tap into the apparent heightened interest in electric cars. While there are concerns about the impact of the region’s high temperatures on the durability of the electric cars’ batteries, interest is gathering momentum.
Much of this regional interest is emanating from Dubai, Dajani said, due to the emirate’s plans to build a greener sustainable economy. The emirate aims to cut carbon emissions by 16 percent by 2021, according to the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA).
Employing tactics similar to those used in China, Dubai has implemented new policies to encourage drivers to switch to electric cars.
In May, the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy ratified an incentive program to boost the use of electric and hybrid cars in the emirate. Under the new measures, government institutions must ensure 10 percent of all new purchases of fleet vehicles are hybrid or electric. It is a strategy that intends to help Dubai reach its target of 2 percent of all vehicles being hybrid or electric by 2020.
Just a few months later, on Aug. 26, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced it had signed a contract for 554 hybrid vehicles for use within its taxi fleet. The authority plans to increase the use of hybrid cars in its fleets from 11 percent to 17 percent by the end of this year. In February, the RTA signed an agreement to buy 200 hybrid electric cars from the US manufacturer Tesla.
There are also efforts afoot to make the driving experience for electric cars easier in the emirate. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) had installed 100 charging stations by the end of 2015, and announced in March it will double the number of stations by 2018.
Demand for electric cars is not just being encouraged through government-led “push” tactics. Vehicle manufacturers themselves are marketing all-electric models to the Gulf region’s car-savvy consumers.
Renault Middle East already offers its Twizy electric car model to the region’s consumers. In July, US firm Tesla opened a showroom in Dubai — its first in the Gulf region — after officially launching in the UAE in February. The manufacturer is also investing in the infrastructure needed to support electric cars, with plans to install more fast “superchargers” and ordinary chargers in the UAE and other Gulf countries.
Other luxury international top-end marques — often favored by the more moneyed inhabitants of the Gulf — are investing heavily in electric and hybrid technology. Cars that offer high-end style as well as being more environmentally friendly could win a number of fans in the region.
Luxury car manufacturer Aston Martin earlier this year announced plans that it was to start production on its first all-electric zero-emission car model — the limited-edition RapidE — in 2019. While there is no confirmation as to when the car might be available in the UAE, it is the type of vehicle that would catch the eye of the region’s car enthusiasts.
“While government support is certainly an important influence in moving to e-mobility, the announcement of new electric cars by many vendors is also accelerating this interest. The cars are fast and have the latest technology in terms of navigation and self-drive features and functionalities,” said Dajani.
“Many of these car manufacturers are also implementing plans to deploy chargers to facilitate the promotion of their electric cars,” he said, adding that ABB was working with many car original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) research and development teams on new e-charging infrastructure.


Hong Kong posts biggest airport passenger number fall in a decade

Updated 15 December 2019

Hong Kong posts biggest airport passenger number fall in a decade

  • The airport handled just over five million passengers, down 16.2 percent from a year earlier
  • Hong Kong has been gripped by sometimes violent protests since June

HONG KONG: Hong Kong International Airport reported its biggest fall in passenger numbers in more than a decade in November, official data released on Sunday showed.
The airport handled just over five million passengers, down 16.2 percent from a year earlier, Airport Authority Hong Kong said in a statement.
That was the largest fall since June 2009, when the figure fell by 18.7 percent, data on the Civil Aviation Department’s website showed.
There were falls of more than 12 percent in the three previous months, the Civil Aviation Department data showed.
Hong Kong has been gripped by sometimes violent protests since June. Demonstrators halted operations at the airport for several days in August.
The Airport Authority did not immediately comment.