Hybrid cars launched in pilot scheme

Sheikh Maktoum and Mattar Al Tayer with Terry Johnson at the launch of the taxis (DENNIS B MALLARI)

Ten environment-friendly hybrid cars will be operated as taxis for a year under a pilot scheme launched yesterday by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.

Five Chevrolet Tahoes and five Chevrolet Malibus will be used in the project, which is being run by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and General Motors (GM).

The cars use two powers sources – a conventional engine and a battery one. The scheme is the first of its kind in the Middle East.

Sheikh Maktoum also inaugurated new public transport double-decker buses, which are fitted with engines that conform to global environmental standards.

"The RTA is seeking a complete renovation of all mass transit systems in the emirate with a view to making them environment friendly," said Chairman and Executive Director Mattar Al Tayer.

"A work team has been formed to replace the existing taxis and public buses with new environment-friendly vehicles using hybrid engines and replacing the existing abra engines with compressed natural gas engines. All of this is a first step in a masterplan to make vehicles in Dubai environment friendly.

"The RTA and General Motors will embark on the experimental operation in Dubai of 10 hybrid cars for one year as taxis.

"Measurements will be taken to determine the ability of hybrid car batteries to endure the heat in the region, how long they will last and how much fuel such vehicles would save," he said.

"The hybrid cars team focused on realising four key objectives – applying existing technology to minimise pollution from vehicle exhausts, improving the quality of fuel used for public transport buses, applying the international standards governing vehicle gas emissions in Dubai and starting to apply hybrid technology in the emirate," said Al Tayer.

He said the RTA held talks with a number of manufacturers of hybrid vehicles and as a result reached agreements with Toyota, Honda and Ford to engage in partnerships to begin the pilot operation of environment-friendly vehicles.

The intention is to gradually replace Dubai's taxi fleet with the green cars.

This would pave the way for the introduction of public transport buses fitted with hybrid systems.

"RTA is keen to have its public transport buses fitted with environment-friendly engines compatible with the environmental standards applicable in Europe and fitted with the latest technology.

"The first batch of these buses arrived in February 2008 and we hope this step will contribute to minimising pollution from buses such that they will be environment-friendly."

Terry Johnson, President of General Motors Operations, Middle East, said: "We are extremely proud to team up with the RTA to introduce such modern technology to the Middle East."