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These eco-friendly vehicles are now available in UAE market

Khaleej Times logo Khaleej Times 06/10/2017 George Kuruvilla
These eco-friendly vehicles are now available in UAE market © Provided by Khaleej Times These eco-friendly vehicles are now available in UAE market

So here we are, in the year 2017 - almost a score since the turn of the century! But unlike what movies, comics and even companies advertised a few decades ago, we neither have access to teleportation, domestic robots, a permanent colony on Mars or flying cars. yet. What we do have are smartphones that can recognise our faces, a growing meme culture and an environmental crisis that involves the depletion of fossil fuels, like petroleum, and 'global warming'. To counter such environmental issues, automobile manufacturers have started to churn out vehicles with alternative sources of propulsion, like electric cars and hybrid vehicles.

Recently, some of these car companies have been making the headlines. One example is Tesla Inc - a company based out of California, founded by the visionary Elon Musk, who happened to play a big hand in the progress of PayPal and Space X, the privately-funded aerospace company. Formerly known as Tesla Motors, this company has been around since 2003, but only made its entry into the local scene this year, which was followed by a grand opening of a showroom on Sheikh Zayed Road. Besides being dubbed the 'Steve Jobs of the automotive industry' by many, which gives the brand a boost, Musk's cars have gained popularity - thanks to their futuristic design, tech-laden interiors and 'green' intentions. like the Model X crossover, with the flamboyant gull wing doors, and the Model S sedan, the world's second best-selling electric car. Speaking of the Model S, there are several models available, each differentiated by the size of battery, which also indicates range and power of the motors. But the one that has caught public attention is the P100D - the King Pin - known, not just as an electric car, but a monster on the drag strip that has decimated the likes of Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini in the race to the quarter mile. It does so comfortably, even after being a heavy family sedan that can seat up to seven individuals.

If you've ever wondered how it does it, you should know that electric motors are able to deliver maximum torque at launch; the traction of all-wheel drive systems help too. But let's admit that although most of us would like to get one, the near Dh600,000 price tag means that we will settle for the cheaper versions that start at under Dh300,000, with smaller batteries, and lesser range and acceleration.

Tesla is not the only manufacturer in the game. You also have French company Renault, which makes the smart car-like Twizy and the more conventional-looking Zoe hatchback. Even BMW has one and it's called the i3.

Now, if you purchase one of the aforementioned models, besides having the opportunity to drive something snazzy and unique, you're also doing your bit to save the planet, by not directly consuming petrol. There are plenty of perks. The Dubai government has recently incentivised the ownership of electric cars in order to promote green mobility and sustainability around the emirate. Owners of such vehicles can avail free parking spots in 40 different locations provided by the RTA. They will be exempt from RTA registration and renewal vehicle fees, and will get a free Salik tag upon registration. The RTA will also provide a unique plate number sticker for electric vehicles to help inspectors differentiate the vehicles in public places. Similarly, DEWA will enable these motorists to charge their vehicles at 100 green charging stations across Dubai for free until the end of 2019. Do keep in mind that this is exclusive for public charging stations and does not include home charging stations.

Hybrid cars have been around for longer and are a more tried-and-tested alternative to petrol cars. Sure, we all know that these economy-oriented hybrids are more fuel-efficient than their petrol engine counterparts, but are they advantageous to the bottom line? Let's compare the costs associated for running two such examples currently available in the market. The Toyota Corolla with the 1.6-litre engine has a starting price of Dh67,500 and its hybrid equivalent is the venerable Toyota Prius, which has a base price of Dh89,900. Assuming the average driver does 2,000km a month, his or her total mileage would amount to 24,000 km a year, approximately. Now, in terms of fuel economy, Toyota claims they can achieve as much as 18.1km/litre and 26.1km/litre, respectively. And if these cars perform as their company claims, the number of litres consumed by each car would be 1,326 litres and 920 litres, respectively. That brings the total cost of fuel per year - based on the rate of Dh1.9 per litre of Special 95 for September - for both cars to Dh2,519 and Dh1,748. This leaves us with a difference of Dh771 per year. Taking into consideration the price differential of the vehicles, it would take almost three years to offset the premium you pay for the Prius. That being said, if we compare it to the 2.0-litre Corolla, which wears a starting price of Dh71,500 and has a claimed economy of 16.5km/litre, it would still take about two years to offset the premium.

So although hybrids like the Prius are more economical, it's the premium pricing that cuts their advantage off at the knee, and it seems that manufacturers and/or distributors are still to get it right before it makes perfect financial sense. But, meanwhile, if you plan to get one, you can drive around with your head held high, considering you're not burning as much petrol or generating as much carbon dioxide as the guy who lives across your street.

In another outlandish test of economy seen on TV, a high-performance BMW M3 coupe was pitted against the frugal Toyota Prius. The Prius was expected to lap the circuit at full steam, while the M3 was only required to keep up. The result was quite the unexpected. The M3 consumed lesser fuel than the Prius. So, if this was a fable at all, we learnt that it's not only about what you drive - it's also about how you drive.

Speaking of hybrids and electric cars, you should know that these vehicles also employ much larger batteries for obvious reasons and there are some related disadvantages. They eat up some of the available boot space. For example, the regular gasoline-powered Porsche Panamera provides 500 litres of cargo space as opposed to 405 litres provided by the E-Hybrid. Tesla, fortunately, has cleverly concealed it under the floor of the car. Also, the hot desert climate has direct impact on battery performance, although the exact difference in range will only be known once we test drive one. And these batteries aren't locally produced in most cases, which adds to the net carbon footprint, instead of negating it. The main concern with these cells are how they are disposed after their lifecycle and what sort of environmental impact it will have. All is well, if they are recycled; else they are toxic and add to landfill.

So whether you like it or not, whether you consider yourself a true 'motorhead' who likes the smell of petrol, the thundering exhaust note or is loyal to traditional automobile brands and wouldn't want to see any of it go away, the future is coming and it is going to be green, electric and possibly determined by radical new enterprises like Tesla. But how much real impact these 'Green Machines' can make on the environment, their financial viability and the coping of infrastructure development with demand, is a story only time can tell.

Regarding the future, we spoke to two local entrepreneurs Abhay Mahajan and Mark John. Both accepted the idea that "there are other ways of reducing fuel consumption, like introducing car pool lanes etc", but also added that though gasoline is relatively cheap in this region, they would consider purchasing an electric car like the Tesla, simply because they are noiseless, practical, quirky and clean.


I have been driving a 2012 Honda Accord 2.4 for the past four years; it has done 130,000 km. I am looking for an entry-level SUV with 2WD; my family has three members, and most of my car usage is to travel to and from office. On an average, I do 3,000 km per month. Kindly suggest a good option.

- Bharat K Kadam

George: If it's only for going to office and back, the new Honda CR-V should serve you perfectly fine. But if you insist on a change of brand, VW's Tiguan, GMC's Acadia and Toyota's Fortuner are options you could consider. Also, do check out the Geely Emgrand X7 Sport. And as I always say, do test drive the car and ensure warranty and service contracts are in your favour. Best of luck with your purchase!

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