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Gulf’s cheap petrol slows take-up of electric bikes

  • Middle East adoption slow
  • UAE wants 50% electric by 2050
  • 10,000 electric bikes sought

Almost 20 percent of the new cars sold this year are electric, according to the International Energy Agency, while e-bikes are becoming a familiar sight in cities around the world.

The Middle East is behind China, the US and Europe on mass adoption, despite the lower operating costs and lower emissions of electric vehicles (EVs).

Husam Zammar, founder of the Terra e-mobility startup in Dubai, points to one core reason: the Gulf’s cheap petrol.

“In our region, petrol prices are quite low compared to Europe,” he told AGBI. So, potential buyers don’t have the same impetus to go electric.

“When we meet new clients, we have to cut costs – and then talk about the environmental impacts,” he added.

Terra’s clients include restaurants, pharmacies and third-party logistics companies – and it is aiming to have 10,000 electric bikes on UAE roads next year.

There are around 92,000 delivery bikes in the Emirates right now, according to Zammar, and each petrol model emits approximately 10,203kg of CO2 per year. 

Government incentive programmes for buyers and users – as already seen in the UAE and Saudi Arabia – will get more EVs on roads across the region, he added.

Industry skills are also a challenge for Terra. “If we go to find EV engineers, the maximum we can find are ones with three or five years of experience because the industry is new,” Zammar said. 

Building the charging infrastructure is vital, too. A 2023 report by the US International Trade Administration has highlighted the UAE government’s “strong commitment” to promoting EVs and its “plan to develop a national ultra-fast EV charging corridor”.

This is aiming for a huge increase in the number of charging stations across the UAE by 2030 – from the 250 in Abu Dhabi and 350 in Dubai in 2022. 

“We need to have more,” Zammar said, in order to achieve the UAE’s target of 50 percent of all cars being electric by 2050. 

Ali Abdo, a world-record-breaking long-distance motorcyclist, used Terra’s electric bike to travel across the UAE’s seven emirates without stopping to charge. Watch the video to find out more

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