Accelerating Towards the Future: The Rise of E-Mobility in the United Arab Emirates

May 18, 2023 | Energy Future & Transition

Over the next 10-20 years, the UAE's mobility landscape is likely to transform significantly, with a focus on autonomous vehicles, public transport expansion, electric vehicles, cutting-edge transportation technologies, shared mobility services, smart cities, and sustainability:

Autonomous Vehicles: The UAE has been investing heavily in autonomous vehicle technology. For example, Dubai aims to have 25% of all transportation trips made by autonomous vehicles by 2030. This will include self-driving cars, taxis, and buses, improving traffic efficiency and reducing congestion.

Public Transport Expansion: The UAE plans to expand its public transport infrastructure, including the Dubai Metro, trams, and buses. This will increase accessibility and connectivity between major urban centers, such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Electric Vehicles (EVs): The UAE is actively encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles through incentives, such as free public charging stations, discounted registration fees, and priority parking. In the next decade, one should expect an increase in EV adoption, resulting in reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality.

Hyperloop: The UAE is exploring implementing a Hyperloop system, which would allow passengers to travel between cities at ultra-high speeds (potentially over 1000 km/h) in a vacuum tube. If successful, this technology could revolutionize travel within the UAE and the broader region.

Drones and Flying Taxis: The UAE is testing and investing in aerial transportation solutions, such as drones and flying taxis, to alleviate traffic congestion and improve urban mobility. In the next 10 years, these technologies may become more prevalent and accessible to the general public.

Shared Mobility Services: The popularity of ride-sharing and bike-sharing services is expected to grow, as more people look for convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly transportation options.

Smart Cities: The UAE invests in smart city technologies, including intelligent traffic systems, connected infrastructure, and data-driven urban planning. These innovations will help optimize mobility and improve residents' overall quality of life.

Major cities in the UAE, such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, are Car Centric Giant Archetypes, with 3-4 million inhabitants, dispersed areas, and widely distributed small hubs. In the unlikely situation of the above-mentioned progress not taking place, the business-as-usual situation would aggravate several existing negative externalities in the UAE, including air pollution, traffic congestion, and long travel times.

The UAE is already working on strategies to reduce the mobility demand to increase mobility efficiency and decarbonize the mobility supply. As published by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, UAE's national smart mobility vision statement is “By 2030, the United Arab Emirates will be among the world’s leading countries in Smart Intermodal Mobility”. The likely steps that the UAE will pursue in the coming years include:

Reduction of Demand: This will include the development of shared mobility, automation, and connectivity. A significant focus will be on creating connected ecosystems, promoting mobility as a service, expanding public transport infrastructure, and providing the enabling environment and funding for automation such as self-driving vehicles. Dubai alone aims to have 25% of self-driving vehicles by 2030.

Decarbonization of Supply: The UAE has already embarked on the electrification of its road transport sector and already, in 2022, was ranked 8th globally in readiness for electric mobility. Electric Vehicle penetration is expected to grow at a rate of 30% each year. The UAE has already converted 20% of its government vehicle fleet to EVs. According to a survey conducted by Audi in Abu Dhabi, about 52 percent of UAE residents are considering a switch to electric transport. Dubai alone has over 560 charging stations, with one of the largest vehicle-to-charging station ratios in the world. Supporting micro-mobility utilization is also underway. The electrification initiative is combined with UAE’s clean energy development efforts. The UAE government is stepping up efforts to transition to more environmentally friendly technology, most notably through its Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative, which intends to spend Dh600 billion ($163.37 billion) on clean and renewable energy sources over the next three decades.

Most UAE power utilities have already implemented smart grid and smart metering programs. While there are no time-of-use or dynamic tariff programs at this time, the infrastructure is there to manage the smart charging behavior of the users when such a need arises. One constraint at this point, however, is the lack of an electricity market or any retail competition in the UAE, and, therefore, further advancements in customer participation, such as P2P transactions, are still some time away.


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