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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

EVRT Middle East looks to change perception of electric cars in the region

Ahead of the region’s second Electric Vehicle Road Trip next week, we talk to some geared-up green motoring enthusiasts

The car convey will this year undertake a two-day, nine-stage tour. Courtesy EVRT Middle East
The car convey will this year undertake a two-day, nine-stage tour. Courtesy EVRT Middle East

The electric-car revolution in the UAE seems to be gathering more velocity than a Tesla at full supercar-matching acceleration, with the past 12 months in particular feeling like a genuine charge into the future.

Last February, Elon Musk’s game-changing company’s debut in Dubai was the headline grabber, but a few weeks before that, the inaugural Emirates EVRT (Electric Vehicle Road Trip) laid the groundwork for this heartening eco-friendly boom.

Then, the route saw drivers of a variety of electric-only cars snake along a route around the UAE; now, for its second running, the event has morphed into the EVRT Middle East, widening its scope into a two-stage, nine-day experience. It will wind its way from the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (January 18), calling at Omani cities Sohar and Muscat, then reaching its final destination at the Sustainable City in Dubai on January 26, following stops in Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah.

En route, 18 new electric-car charging points will be opened at six locations, expanding the country’s ever-widening network.

Green motoring causes will be promoted along the way, with talks, chances for the public to test-drive the cars and visits to various green sites, such as the Shams 1 solar park near Madinat Zayed.

The National will be participating in the first leg of the trip, alongside a variety of notable international personalities who are furthering the good cause of cleaning up the planet’s transport.

18 new electric-car charging points will be opened at six locations, expanding the network. EVRT Middle East
More electric-car charging points will be opened. EVRT Middle East

“I think these kind of events are very important, especially in today’s world,” says Sushil Reddy, who set a World Record in 2016 for the longest electric bicycle ride when he piloted a solar-powered two-wheeler 7,500 kilometres across north-west India.

“The public can get a feel about electric vehicles so that they can appreciate their benefits a lot more.”

That view is shared by Zachary Shahan, director of the website CleanTechnica, one of the United States’ leading voices on clean technology.

“There’s a tremendous lack of awareness,” he says. “Few people know what’s on the market. The most important thing is to get people to experience the cars, so I think these kind of events are perfect. I was writing about electric vehicles for years, [before] I finally drove some of them – the BMW i3 I think was the first, then the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe – and I was like: ‘Holy cow, these are really amazing.’ You have to get people in the car, then they get what they call the ‘EV smile’ and fall in love with it.”

Currently based in Poland, Shahan was car-free for 15 years, but has since set up a city-to-city electric-car chauffeur service, through which he now drives a Tesla Model S.

Roy Cooper / The National
Roy Cooper / The National

Reddy, meanwhile, had hoped to bring an “e-bike” to ride during the event, but despite that aim being scuppered by logistics, the Mumbai-born, solar-power and electric-mobility advocate is excited to take to four wheels in the UAE

and Oman.

Currently completing a master’s in Paris, he eventually plans to return his home country to promote the causes closest to his heart. “In India, there’s a mission for national electric mobility,” he explains.

“The plan is to convert all the vehicles to electric vehicles by 2030. There’s a lot to do. It’s not as mature as Europe or the US markets. My long-term plan is helping EV adoption in India.”

Closer to home, road trippers Deeba Salim and her husband, Irfan Izhar, are the proud owners of one of the first Tesla Model Xs to hit their adopted hometown of Dubai.

Salim, the author and poet behind the Young Author Awards, is glowing in her praise for their electric SUV.

“It is an extremely impressive car with a spaceship feel the minute you enter it,” she says.

“I am in love with it. Our image of an electric car has changed since we started driving [our] Tesla. It’s a head-turner in every way.

“EVRT Middle East is a great start in spreading awareness and changing the perception of electric cars in general.”

Shahan – who is also in Abu Dhabi as part of the review committee for this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize – thinks that with events such as the EVRT Middle East, it is an exciting time to be in the UAE.

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“I love this country because it’s very futuristic on various matters,” adds Shahan.

“It’s a huge challenge to transition when you make so much money on oil and gas, but I think the leadership is extremely keen on preparing for the future and realising the world is going to change one way or another, so it’s better to be at the front of that change.

“It’s an inspiring place to visit.”

For more information, visit roadtripme.globalevrt.com.