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Demand for 'green' vehicles seen rising

Government authorities stepping up drive with Dubai Police fleet unveiling electric mini-cars and Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) launch of hybrid taxis. (Patrick Castillo)

By Bindu Rai

As UAE residents prepare their monthly budgets to accommodate deregulated petrol price that will be in effect from August 1, several are willingly shifting gears to accommodate more pocket friendly ‘green vehicles’ in their parking garages.

Recent data released by car classifieds website 'Carmudi' indicates the UAE is accelerating towards a more sustainable option.

Government authorities are also stepping up the drive with the Dubai Police fleet last year unveiling its electric mini-cars and motorbikes, while the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) of Dubai also spearheaded the launch of the hybrid taxis that are expected to double by year-end.

The data indicates auto manufacturers have shifted their priorities to not only meet emissions standards, but also to keep up with government policies to improve air quality in each country.

While the report indicates fuel efficient cars have not yet caught on in developing markets as fast as they have in western markets, there is a slow, apparent change of car buyers going green globally.

The number of eco-friendly car listings in the UAE on the Carmudi site stands at 5.8 per cent while Qatar stands at 1.88 per cent.

The reason for this slow growth in the Middle East is largely because drivers are still in love with their SUVs, along with lack of transportation facilities and limited ‘green vehicle’ options.

However, environmentalists are championing the latter cause further.

“The use of green vehicles such as electric cars, hybrid cars and vehicles running on electricity powered by solar energy and natural gas will not only help reduce the amount of pollution and in turn our carbon footprint but also help save the already depleting natural resources such as fossil fuels,” Habiba Al Marashi, Chairperson, Emirates Environmental Group, told 'Emirates24|7'.

Speaking about the effect of petrol price deregulation in the UAE, she said: “This should also have a positive impact on the country’s economy and further strengthen UAE’s position as a sustainable nation.

“There is a need to look at this issue holistically and find solutions at reducing the number of cars on the roads.

“This will only be feasible when concrete efforts are made on a national level with proper infrastructure, better road connectivity, available facilities and frequency of public transport with a nationwide coverage.

"However, while commending the efforts of the government, EEG head stated  this is a ‘long journey since the concept of energy efficient / hybrid vehicles is new to the region, the private sector need to play a leading role by supporting the government's initiative and encourage the general public to use these energy efficient options.”

The Carmudi data further indicated in Pakistan, green cars have also gained traction in recent years with the number of hybrid cars listed online growing 85 per cent in the past two years, alongside a 17.48 per cent slump in listings for petrol-fuelled cars in the country.

This trend goes hand in hand with governmental policies to improve the country’s air quality and cut carbon commissions in the coming decade.

Similarly, in Sri Lanka, 43.5 per cent of cars listed for sale are eco-friendly cars, and out of those, 93 per cent consist of hybrid cars.

The hybrid car market in Sri Lanka is monopolised by the likes of Honda’s Insight Hybrid model and Toyota’s Prius Hybrid Synergy Drive models.

So, will the emerging markets continue to grow fonder of environmentally-friendly cars?

It is predicted that in the Middle East, the eco-friendly trend will pick up in the coming years as many federal institutions across the region have begun to adopt hybrid cars.

Earlier this year UAE saw the launch of 16 electric and hybrid vehicle charging stations, with that number expected to rise to 100 before the year is over.

According to the Ministry of Economy the UAE is also the world’s third-largest oil exporter and has one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the combustion of fuels such as gasoline and diesel is the second largest source of CO2 emissions and the UAE is the seventh biggest energy producer in the world.

According to the 2015 UAE State of Energy Report, the country produced almost 20 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person in 2010, which was a 63 per cent increase from 2000.

EEG’s Al Marashi hoped with the deregulation of fuel prices people will and should be encouraged to use public transport or fuel efficient vehicles like the electric or hybrid cars, which will help lower the nation’s carbon emissions, adding this will also have a positive effect on the country’s overall environmental and socio-economic status.