MidEast EV tech still behind other countries despite developments: Industry experts

The adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure in the Middle East is still behind China, the US, and Europe, despite rapid developments and dynamic government policies, industry experts told Al Arabiya English.

“We see the Middle East adopting EVs at a higher rate than other markets such as South America, but lower than others such as USA, Europe and China, who are much further along in their EV adoption journeys,” Sean Poppit, director of communications for General Motors (GM) in the Africa and Middle East region, told Al Arabiya English.

“However, there is no doubt that the openness to EVs has accelerated in the region due to the rise in fuel prices,” he added.

“The immediate impact for car owners will be felt at the petrol pump with consistent price rises.”

While rising fuel costs are leading more people to consider switching to battery-powered cars, the Middle East still enjoys some of the lowest petroleum prices in the world.

High temperatures in the region can also affect the driving range of electric vehicles, as the use of air conditioning can drain the car’s battery faster – although regions with very low temperatures can also have a negative effect on battery life.

Salman Hussein, CEO of Fuse – a company that converts fuel-powered cars to run on batteries – echoed the sentiment that the UAE is still trailing behind other countries, despite a recent surge in demand caused by high fuel prices.

“The UK is far, far ahead,” he said. “The business models that the UK has are certainly something that we can learn from and we can adapt to in the UAE.”

Recent efforts by governmental bodies in the UAE, however, are accelerating the availability of charging infrastructure and incentivizing businesses to adopt EV technology, Hussein said.

One move by the emirate of Abu Dhabi in May allowed owners of EV charge stations to impose fees for drivers to recharge their batteries.

Hussein described this as a “significant milestone,” as it introduced a financial incentive for private companies to develop EV infrastructure.

Looking at developments in the industry in the UK, Hussein predicts that there will be a boom in the EV business in the UAE in the coming years.

He referenced BP’s $170 million acquisition of Chargemaster, the UK’s largest EV charge station operator in 2018, as one example.

“That’s something now we will start seeing in the UAE in the coming years as well, so it’s a great time to be a brand that is developing those systems right now in the UAE,” he said.

Poppit told Al Arabiya English that GM has a “shared vision when it comes to electrification” with governments in the region.

Some ambitious government targets the company highlighted included Saudi Arabia’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 and have 30 percent of vehicles in Riyadh electric by 2030, and the UAE’s aim to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Saudi Arabia has made significant bets on EV technology, most notably with its 61 percent investment in US EV maker Lucid.

The government has ordered between 50,000 and 100,000 EVs from Lucid to be delivered in the next ten years, and construction on a Lucid factory in the Kingdom has begun, Saudi Minister of Investment Khalid al-Falih said in May.

The UAE has also made significant investments in charging technology, with Dubai’s utilities company DEWA operating hundreds of charging stations in the emirate.

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