How Saudi Arabia’s investments are driving electric vehicle adoption in the Middle East 

Special How Saudi Arabia’s investments are driving electric vehicle adoption in the Middle East 
US-based electric vehicle maker Lucid Group, majority owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, will set up its first overseas factory in the Kingdom as regional demand for EVs accelerates. (AFP)
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Updated 14 March 2023

How Saudi Arabia’s investments are driving electric vehicle adoption in the Middle East 

How Saudi Arabia’s investments are driving electric vehicle adoption in the Middle East 
  • Saudi investments in EV production are expected to reach $50 billion over the next decade
  • At least 30 percent of the vehicles on the road in Riyadh are expected to be electric by 2030

DUBAI: Although the electric-vehicle market in the Middle East is still in its infancy, the global rollout of new EV models is accelerating their adoption in the region as governments and consumers embrace the transition away from the internal combustion engine.

A new study by Goldman Sachs predicts that EVs will make up about half of new car sales worldwide by 2035. “While the EV sector is beset by some major crosscurrents . . . our strategists expect technology innovation to supersede these forces in the coming years,” says the report by Goldman Sachs Research.

Meanwhile, as increased competition, government incentives and falling prices of battery-related products and vehicle components make EVs more affordable, the likelihood grows of at least some models becoming as cheap as vehicles with IC engines before the year ends.

STC Group Announces Partnership with #Lucid LLC for Connectivity Services for Lucid Vehicles in KSA. (Supplied)

While Elon Musk’s Tesla brand currently leads the Middle East EV market, among the electric models that can be found in the region are the MG ZS EV, Renault Zoe E-Tech and the Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, alongside the recently launched Swedish brand, Polestar.

The increasing focus on EV adoption, including in the Arab Gulf states, is largely driven by national commitments to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to achieve net-zero targets within the coming decades.

This transition will not happen overnight, however, as the Gulf countries still need to increase greatly the number of charging stations available for these new vehicles — to give EVs sufficient range and to incentivise consumers to buy electric.

“The market for electric vehicles is expected to grow across the region, driven largely by the continued government-led reforms, specifically in building infrastructure to allow consumers to travel long distances,” Tom Lee, managing director of MG Motor Middle East, told Arab News.

According to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, the Middle East and African EV market was valued at $40.25 million in 2021, and is expected to reach $93.10 million by 2027, registering a compound annual growth rate of more than 15 percent during the forecast period.

The numbers are remarkable considering that the global EV market suffered a major setback during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the closure of several manufacturing units and the start of a global semiconductor chip shortage, which continues to impact industries to this day.

Sales of zero-emissions vehicles have since bounced back worldwide, doubling in 2021 from the previous year, marking a new record at just under 7 million cars — equivalent to 10 percent of all car sales, according to the Global EV Outlook, published by the Electric Vehicles Initiative.

The same was the case in 2022, when global sales of EVs steadily increased, with 2 million cars sold in just the first quarter. This year, EV market revenues are projected to reach $322.50 million.

“Education of consumers (in the region) has rapidly increased, driven by GCC countries’ renewable energy plans and the drop in the price of electric vehicles,” Lee told Arab News.

This awareness is likely to grow when the UAE hosts the UN Climate Change Conference, COP28, in November, coinciding with its “Year of Sustainability.” Lee says the UAE’s manufacturing plans are also a lucrative investment opportunity.

Currently, eco-friendly or hybrid vehicles make up some 50 percent of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority’s taxi fleet. A five-year plan has been launched to have only hybrid, electric or hydrogen-powered taxis on the emirate’s roads by 2027.

Launched in 2016, Ekar, the region’s first mobility company and self-drive super app, has jumped on the EV bandwagon, adding 10 Teslas to its fleet available for rent in Dubai and five additional Teslas available in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City.

“EVs are exceptionally good cars for car sharing,” Vilhelm Hedberg, co-founder and CEO of Ekar, told Arab News.

“There are fewer moving parts in an EV compared to an internal combustion engine car, which has a ton of different opportunities for failure, maintenance and issues to arise, making the vehicle off-road time much lower in EVs.”

Vilhelm Hedberg, founder of Ekar, believes the region is ‘heading in the right direction’ with EV. (Supplied)

At present, there are about 325 charging stations for EVs across the UAE, catering for less than 1 percent of all vehicles registered in the country. However, Hedberg believes the number of EVs on the road will rise over the next couple of years.

“There’s a global readiness equation that’s calculated for EVs and the UAE finds itself ranked eighth in the world,” he said. Norway, China, Germany, Singapore and the UK take the top five rankings for EV market share.

“(Because of) the very fact that the UAE has the infrastructure already beginning to be laid out, it is headed in the right direction.”

With total Saudi investments in EV production expected to reach $50 billion over the next decade, the hope is that least 30 percent of the vehicles on the road in Riyadh will be electric in the next seven years.

“The Saudi public has a strong affinity for their cars. There’s so much enthusiasm for classic cars and for iconic car models,” a spokesperson for Ceer, Saudi Arabia’s first homegrown EV brand, told Arab News.

Ceer, Saudi Arabia’s first homegrown electric vehicle brand, has a production target of 170,000 cars a year. (Supplied)

According to the spokesperson, Saudis “also have a strong affinity for technology” and, therefore, will look to adopt new concepts.

“You can find battery electric vehicles on the streets of Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh even though many brands don’t sell BEVs officially in Saudi Arabia today,” the spokesperson said, referring to fully electric vehicles with rechargeable batteries and no petrol engine.

Claiming that Ceer’s research on consumer insights revealed a strong interest in the company’s portfolio of vehicles, the spokesperson said: “The interest is both due to the vehicles’ iconic design and infotainment features, but also due to a host of other factors, including value for money, total cost of ownership, and increasing awareness of topics related to sustainability.”

In 2020, there were more than 15 million registered vehicles in the Kingdom. Four-fifths of these were cars or light vehicles. According to the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center, the transport sector consumed about 21 percent of the Kingdom’s total energy that year.

Saudi Arabia plugs into the future

Saudi women test-drive an electric a car manufactured by Lucid Group at the KSA Green Transition Journey exhibition in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. (AFP)

  • With 61 percent of shares, Saudi Arabia is the majority owner of Lucid Group through its Public Investment Fund, or PIF. Set to be built in King Abdullah Economic City on the Red Sea coast, Lucid’s first overseas manufacturing plant will initially reassemble Lucid Air vehicle “kits” manufactured in Arizona, the US.
  • Eventually, the plant will build complete vehicles with a planned peak capacity of 150,000 vehicles a year. Saudi Arabia’s first homegrown EV brand, Ceer Motors, was launched late last year by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
  • Also backed by PIF, Ceer will be among the first automotive brands to produce EVs in Saudi Arabia, with plans to sell a range of vehicles for consumers both in the country and the Middle East and North Africa region. The first units are expected to become available in 2025.
  • With a production target of 170,000 cars a year, Ceer is expected to create up to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and directly contribute $8 billion to Saudi Arabia’s GDP by 2034.
  • The Kingdom’s giga-projects, such as Qiddiya, Roshn and NEOM, have plans to deploy fleets of EVs, produced in time by the Lucid and Ceer factories in King Abdullah Economic City.

Throughout the event, Schneider Electric is highlighting its portfolio of EVlink chargers, including its latest EVlink Smart Wallbox charging stations. (Supplied)

To support the transition from traditional petrol engines to electric mobility, Mohamed Shaheen, KSA and Yemen cluster president at Schneider Electric, believes a strong energy management infrastructure is essential.

The EVlink smart charger launched in the region last year is just one of many next-generation products that will help build a more sustainable energy matrix for the future, he told Arab News.

According to Shaheen, although the cost of an eco-friendly vehicle is markedly lower today than before, simply increasing the number of EVs on the road will not be enough to reduce emissions.

“A smart and sustainable charging experience that can monitor, manage and eventually limit the use of EV charging devices with the aim of optimizing energy consumption can help EVs become even cleaner,” he said.

According to Boston-based Energy Sage, charging an EV is about 3.5 times cheaper per mile than the cost of fueling up a petrol car.

“It is imperative to understand that — in the long term — EV charging is cost-effective,” particularly when steps are taken to develop more sustainable production processes, Shaheen said.

However, despite the growing public readiness for EV adoption in the region, the deciding factor ultimately would be consumers’ willingness to swap their petrol engine vehicle for an electric option.

Surveys show that people are looking for “the reliability and comfort they are used to in traditional engines,” said Lee of MG Motors.

“With the falling prices of EVs and the increase in petrol prices, there has been a fundamental shift in the market.”

Launch event of Ceer, the first Saudi electric vehicle brand, in November 2022. (Supplied)

Pointing to the fluctuations in fuel prices over 2022 as a factor that has influenced consumer decision-making, he said that by 2026 almost 45,000 EVs are expected to be sold in the region.

Fuel bills apart, EVs generally have a strong resale value, which is why more and more people are looking at them as a sound investment, according to Ekar’s Hedberg.

He drew attention to a survey commissioned by Audi Abu Dhabi, which found a change of sentiment among consumers, with 52 percent of UAE residents considering buying an EV.

“But my view of the world is that people shouldn’t own cars,” Hedberg said. “They should treat cars like they treat clothing and interchange them for the various occasions that they need them for,” he said.

Studies show that every car shared removes 17 private cars from the road, he said.

In recent years, the car-sharing trend has caught on in European cities, resonating with people who want to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

While the same cannot be said for the Middle East region yet, the consensus view of automotive-industry executives is that EVs and new energy vehicles are the way forward.



Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 
Updated 07 June 2023

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

RIYADH: A national real estate funding strategy for Qatar is needed to boost the sector, according to proposals put forward at a dedicated event held in the country. 

The Ministry of Municipality announced the recommendations following the Qatar Real Estate Forum, which saw the participation of 1,500 leaders, decision-makers, and executives from across the world. 

In order to develop the sector, the country’s real estate strategy should provide investors with incentives, as well as develop creative housing financing options and open ownership for foreigners, according to a release from Qatar’s state news agency. 

It was also noted that the real estate sector across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries shows great promise due to the region’s favorable conditions, such as geographic diversity, easy access, availability of security, and tourist attractions.   

The forum — the first-of-its-kind in the country — saw 35 keynote speakers take part in a wide range of real estate topics, as well as 12 panel discussions and workshops across the two-day event.   

Qatar and Kyrgyzstan trade boost 

Bilateral trade between Qatar and Kyrgyzstan is set to grow after an agreement was reached to enhance economic cooperation, according to the Gulf country’s Minister of Commerce and Industry.   

Mohammed Al-Thani highlighted the importance of fostering cooperation relations with the Kyrgyz Republic while visiting its capital city, Bishkek.   

This visit marks a new phase of developing trade relations for both countries’ mutual benefit, according to the minister.   

Additionally, two-sided investment opportunities are to arise from this partnership, according to a statement he made to the Qatar News Agency. 

Over the past few years, Qatar has been focusing on economic openness, global market engagement, and building partnerships in non-oil sectors for development, added Al-Thani.  

The achievement of the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the diversification of sources of income away from oil and gas are the cornerstones of strategic orientation.   

Therefore, along with food security, agriculture, green economy, and energy, renewable and clean energies are among the attractive areas of cooperation with Qatar’s international partners, including the Kyrgyz Republic. 

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  
Updated 07 June 2023

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s futuristic city NEOM has entered into an agreement with international luxury yachting solution provider IGY Marinas to develop and operate a harbor at the giga-project’s luxury island destination Sindalah.  

The island which will be the closest superyacht marina to Europe and the Mediterranean is projected to become an iconic destination for the world’s yachting community.   

With as many as 86 berths for yachts up to 50 meters, the facility will also provide additional serviced offshore buoys for superyachts up to 180 meters as Sindalah 

“Sindalah will be one of the most alluring and vibrant yachting destinations in the world, thanks to its strategic location, outstanding amenities and stunning natural landscapes,” said Antoni Vives, head of urban development at NEOM, in a statement.  

“This partnership with IGY is one of many steps we are taking to achieve our vision of reshaping the global yachting calendar,” he added.  

Once completed, the marina will join IGY’s international superyacht network of 23 marinas across 12 countries.  

Furthermore, the marina will also have IGY’s exclusive superyacht membership program, IGY Trident.  

“Sindalah perfectly integrates with IGY’s global vision to connect the world’s most incredible yachting destinations across our growing marina network,” said Tom Mukamal, CEO of IGY Marinas, in the statement.  

Last month, Sindalah received a SR3 billion ($800 million) boost thanks to a partnership with Riyad Bank.    

The Saudi bank which announced the funding deal in a tweet said the money will help in achieving the goal of having $1 trillion invested in the Kingdom’s tourism industry as it eyes 100 million tourists annually by 2030.  

The Sindalah development is estimated to generate 3,500 jobs in the tourism, hotel, and leisure sectors, and travelers are expected to begin arriving on the island in early 2024.    

Speaking about Sindalah in December, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “This is another significant moment for NEOM and a major step in the Kingdom realizing its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030.”    

He added: “Sindalah will be NEOM’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location.” 

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet
Updated 07 June 2023

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

RIYADH: Aiming to procure 45 aircraft by the end of 2023, AviLease, an aircraft financing and leasing company owned by the Public Investment Fund, has garnered $1.1 billion in its inaugural financing.  

The unsecured five-year facility will be predominantly used to acquire additional aircraft, thereby enhancing the company’s premier portfolio.  

“We are very pleased to announce the successful closing of our debut $1.1 billion unsecured term financing facility, supported by a syndicate of banking partners locally, regionally and across the world,” AviLease CEO Edward O’Bryne said in a statement.  

The financing is split into two segments — a conventional funding section of $850 million and an imminent Shariah-compliant tranche of $250 million.   

The financing request spurred substantial interest locally, regionally, and internationally, with an oversubscription rate of 3.3 times, according to the press release.  

“We thank the lenders for their support and long-term confidence in AviLease. The quality and breadth of demand for the debut funding far exceeded our expectations, and we are thankful to our banking partners and advisers for their support in achieving this outcome,” O’Bryne commented.  

With plans to augment its fleet to roughly 300 aircraft by 2030, the company is targeting to position itself among the world’s leading aircraft leasing firms. It has already acquired or committed to acquiring 45 aircraft by the end of 2023, amounting to a book value of $2.4 billion.  

“It is crucial for us to work with a wide variety of international financial partners with strong balance sheets, who can provide incremental funding to support our growth objectives,” O’Bryne said.  

Citibank, Riyad Bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Gulf International Bank and Saudi Awwal Bank functioned as the mandated lead arrangers for the transaction.   

Meanwhile, Banque Saudi Fransi, Saudi Investment Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and HSBC Middle East served as mandated lead arrangers for the conventional tranche.  

Dubai Islamic Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, Bank AlJazira, and Saudi National Bank will serve as mandated lead arrangers for the Shariah-compliant tranche.  

Moreover, Citibank functioned as the financial adviser for AviLease, with Allen & Overy acting as its counsel, while Clifford Chance provided advisory services to the lenders.  

Headquartered in Riyadh, AviLease invests in the latest generation aircraft via purchase and lease-back transactions, portfolio trades and direct orders from aircraft manufacturers.  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  
Updated 07 June 2023

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

RIYADH: Egypt’s $10-billion wind energy project announced last year moved one step closer to its execution after the consortium responsible for the renewable project signed a deal on June 6 to secure the required land.

Led by the UAE government-owned renewable energy company Masdar, the consortium signed an agreement with Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority to secure a site for the construction of the 10-gigawatts capacity onshore wind farms in the country.

The consortium also includes Infinity Power, which is Africa’s largest renewable energy developer, and Egypt’s Hassan Allam Utilities, an investment platform for power, renewables and water-related opportunities.

The deal will help Egypt move toward achieving its annual goal of slashing carbon emissions by 9 percent as the onshore wind farms will produce 47,790 GWh of clean energy per year while displacing 23.8 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The North African country has set a goal of sourcing 42 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030. That said, the new plant is estimated to save Egypt an estimated $5 billion in natural gas costs on a yearly basis.

Masdar said the deal cements its commitment toward supporting African nations such as Egypt to meet their ambitious renewable energy objectives.  

“This 10 GW onshore wind project is set to be one of the largest wind farms in the world, and largest on the African continent,” said the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, Sultan Al-Jaber.

He added: “It is a sign of the strong partnership between the UAE and Egypt, with great potential to create jobs, cut emissions and power homes with clean electricity at competitive economical costs.”   

From Egypt’s side, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker Al-Markabi stressed that renewable energy in the country has the potential to attract direct foreign investments.

“National Egyptian entities play a vital role in creating an environment that is supportive of investment with low risks, and high interaction with the financing institutions and development partners,” he explained.

During COP27 last year, Masdar, Infinity Power and Hassan Allam Utilities also signed agreements with several Egyptian state-backed organizations to develop green hydrogen and derivatives’ production facilities.

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement
Updated 07 June 2023

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index edged up 55.96 points, or 0.49 percent, to close yet another session up on Wednesday.

The trading turnover of the Tadawul All Share Index reached SR6.92 billion ($1.85 billion) as 115 stocks advanced while 86 retreated. The index continued to enjoy a steady week to close at 11,372.83.

While Nomu, the parallel equity market, gained 52.80 points to 21,481.58, the MSCI Tadawul Index went up by 0.62 percent to close at 1,506.94.

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. emerged as the top performer with its share price rising 7.57 percent to SR78.20.

Middle East Healthcare Co. and Theeb Rent a Car Co. were the other top gainers whose share prices surged by 6.69 percent and 6.59 percent respectively.

Abdullah Al Othaim Markets Co. was the worst performer of the day, as its share price edged down by 2.97 percent to SR14.36.

Meanwhile, Almuneef Co. for Trade, Industry, Agriculture, and Contracting started trading on the parallel market. The company which opened its trading with a share price of SR70 ended the session at SR64.70, down by 7.57 percent.

On the announcements front, Watani Iron Steel Co. said that its shareholders approved increasing the company’s capital by 50 percent through a one-for-two bonus share distribution.

According to a Tadawul statement, the capital will be raised to SR181.65 million by distributing one bonus share for every two shares held through the capitalization of SR60.55 million of retained earnings. Its share price edged down by 0.99 percent to SR35.