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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

How to get the whole of the UAE charged up about electric vehicles

The incentives announced this week are a start, but they must not mark the end of the road

Dubai wants more than 40,000 EVs registered by 2030 and has said it will offer free public parking and free charging stations, among other incentives. Tyrone Siu / Reuters
Dubai wants more than 40,000 EVs registered by 2030 and has said it will offer free public parking and free charging stations, among other incentives. Tyrone Siu / Reuters

As The National reported, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority and the Road Transport Authority announced a clutch of incentives this week designed to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads. The emirate wants more than 40,000 EVs registered by 2030 and has said it will offer free public parking for EVs, Salik exemptions, free charging stations and discounts on plug-in car registrations.

EVs have come a long way in a relatively short space of time and the previous nagging doubts about their suitability for this climate have also been put to rest. The buzz around the recent introduction of the Tesla brand to this country was palpable. But what will it take for EVs to complete the journey from novelty feature to familiar presence on our roads?

Certainly, this week’s roll-out of incentives is a great start, but they must not mark the end of the road. Indeed, they may not be enough.

In common with other Gulf states, the UAE has a number of factors working against EV adoption. Low petrol costs have historically fed an addiction to large, thirsty cars, although the introduction of floating petrol prices has, undoubtedly, changed some of our behaviours and given consumers pause for thought about their fuel consumption and transport costs. We are also blessed with plentiful parking options in our city centres and wide, multi-lane roadways, in marked contrast to the choked arteries of many cities in other parts of the world, which tends to encourage road users to buy small city cars or to leave their vehicles at home and take public transport instead.

For EVs to truly fire the country’s imaginations, further discounts should be applied. Whether that is via manufacturer incentives, guaranteed buyback of vehicles, exemption from VAT when it is introduced next year or the establishment of monetary disincentives to buying petrol cars, is not for us to decide. But what we do know is that where the “carrot and stick” has helped EV uptake elsewhere in the world – incentives for EV purchase, coupled with the high price of petrol causing a flight to electric – that "stick" is not so evident here. For consumers to truly embrace EVs in the Gulf, incentives will have to manifold.

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