x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Eco-friendly cars to become more popular in UAE

Two dozen hybrid or eco-friendly cars were on display at the green car exhibition running until April 10 on Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Apr 03, 2014 - His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani check the BMW i8 at the Dubai Green Auto Show at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai-Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Blvd. ( Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper ) Martin Croucher - National
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Apr 03, 2014 - His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Thani check the BMW i8 at the Dubai Green Auto Show at The Pavilion Downtown Dubai-Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Blvd. ( Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper ) Martin Croucher - National

DUBAI // The UAE may have a love affair with the 4x4, but that will change in the coming years as driving an environmentally-friendly car becomes a more attractive option, say experts at a car exhibition.

Held on Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard in Dubai, the exhibition featured about 25 hybrid and electric vehicles either being sold in the country or those that have already been adopted by government agencies.

For institutions across the UAE, these vehicles are the means to showcase their environmentally-friendly credentials, but the vehicles could become a common sight in coming years, according to Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah al Thani, a Sharjah-based member of the Qatari royal family.

“Many federal institutions all across the Emirates are already adopting hybrid or electric cars,” he said.

“Most gas stations are already having charging points within them for electric vehicles. Within the next three to five years I expect there will be a huge shift here. There will be more green and more hybrid cars.

“There’s a huge responsibility from manufacturers themselves. In addition, the people from the UAE are becoming wiser about becoming green.”

The stationary, open-air Dubai Green Auto Show will run until next Thursday. It is part of the UAE Green Festival, which runs for a month, until April 16 and features green innovation in areas as diverse as fashion and organic foods.

A small one-seater electric vehicle of the Dubai Police, called ‘the Rhino’, was on display at the Dubi exhibition.

Almost small enough to fit into an average-sized lift, the vehicle is used to “enhance police presence in the narrow alleyways of the city”.

Lt Obaid bin Al Rashid, from the police traffic department, said it was already deployed in areas such as Naif or in crowded tourist sites such as Global Village.

“It is useful for moving in densely crowded areas, where a normal car wouldn’t be able to go,” he said.

The vehicle and an electric motorbike were the start of a new section that the Dubai Police was adding to its fleet, said Lt Obaid.

“We have launched these initiatives very recently, so I’m sure we will be expanding in the future,” he said. “We are currently in the testing stage, we will definitely be increasing the number.”

Car maker Lexus has had four hybrid car models on sale in Dubai for the past three years, the cheapest – a CT200 – retails at about Dh166,000.

Safi Nassar of the Lexus Promotion Team said demand for hybrid vehicles had yet to take off.

“We are not witnessing a big demand yet,” he said.

“There’s not that much awareness about eco-friendly cars. “Even when there is awareness, people ask why they have to invest in a hybrid car when it doesn’t really make a big difference in terms of fuel savings.

“They’re looking at it purely in economic terms. They’re not thinking about it in terms of saving the environment.”

Hybrid cars run on an electric engine until the driver hits a certain speed, normally over 40kph.

Vehicles such as the Lexus models do not require charging, and the electric engine is powered by energy generated from brake-pedal friction.

Their prices are often marginally higher than combustion-engine cars. The Lexus RX450, which uses a hybrid engine, typically would cost Dh7,000 to Dh10,000 more than a normal car, said Mr Nassar.

In a region where fuel prices are higher, in Europe for instance, the period for recouping that price difference could be two to three years.

However, in the UAE where fuel is much cheaper, the period is much longer, according to Mr Nasser.

Nevertheless, the UAE-based Al Yousuf Group, which owns Phoenix Motors in the United States, plans to sell a wholly electric bus in Dubai.

Hassan al Jayouchi, a business development consultant, believes there will eventually be a strong market for green vehicles here.

“Prices of fuel are subsidised here, but in the futu

re that could change,” he said. “That could mean electrical or hybrid engine vehicles are a better option.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae