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Saeed Al Hameli, Vice Chairman of UITP Mena Board and Director of Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, at a press conference announcing the introduction of electric buses in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
Saeed Al Hameli, Vice Chairman of UITP Mena Board and Director of Abu Dhabi Department of Transport, at a press conference announcing the introduction of electric buses in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National

Abu Dhabi dreams of electric taxis as first battery-powered buses hit the road next month

If the next bus you take to Marina Mall in the capital has a particularly quiet engine and smooth acceleration, there will be a reason for that: it’s electric.

ABU DHABI // If the next bus you take to Marina Mall has a particularly quiet engine and smooth acceleration, there will be a reason for that: it’s electric.

Transport chiefs are putting two battery-powered buses, the first in the region, through six-month trials in Abu Dhabi, starting at the end of next month.

A 65-seater will ply the route between Marina and Abu Dhabi malls, and a 48-seater will travel between the city, Mussaffah and Baniyas.

The routes were chosen because both have high passenger numbers, and analysts will be able to compare the buses’ performances on a city route with frequent stops and a more suburban route with fewer stops.

The manufacturer, Ankai, which is based in Anhui, China, said that when loaded with passengers the buses can travel 200 kilometres on a full battery charge.

Electric charging stations have been installed at the main bus terminal in Abu Dhabi, next to Al Wahda Mall. Batteries can reach 80 per cent of capacity within three hours and 99 per cent in four hours.

Electric vehicles are growing in popularity as battery technology advances, particularly because they do not emit greenhouse gases and are not reliant on traditional fuels.

The six-month trial will “ascertain the total cost of ownership and give first-hand insight of benefits offered to service users, while we study and assess the best and most efficient buses and technologies that fit with Abu Dhabi’s operating conditions”, said Saeed Al Hameli, of the Department of Transport.

“Four drivers will be trained by the manufacturer and the distributor on the performance of the bus, giving us the hands-on information on its features and how air-conditioning and other supporting systems will drain its battery.”

The department will test various aspects of the buses’ efficiency and will also seek feedback from passengers.

In 2011, the department put compressed natural gas buses on trial. Feasibility studies have been completed but have not yet been published.

“Once we finish all these trials, we will submit to the government then,” Mr Al Hameli said. “Finally, the purchase will be decided by the concerned government authorities.”

“We suppose that we will submit the final report by 2014, then let’s see when final approval comes in.”

If electric technology is chosen, he said it would also be a wise move to make taxis electric.

In addition to the trials, the department recently concluded a feasibility study on alternative fuels.

It aims to promote a culture of using clean transport and allocating resources for sustainable development of transport.

It is also studying pollution and emission-reduction technologies, promoting green conversions on existing vehicles and championing new low and zero-emission vehicles.

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