What needs to happen for electric vehicles to take over the roads?

Infrastructure, cost and charging station issues all need to be overcome, experts say

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The days of cars running on petrol and diesel have long been numbered, with the age of the electric vehicle right around the corner – but this has yet to become a reality on the roads.

Despite the widely held belief that EVs are the future, why haven't more people made the shift?

The National asked experts about what needs to happen before owning an EV becomes the norm for the majority of motorists, rather than the exception.

“One of the main issues has got to be about infrastructure and the ability for consumers to be able to charge their car as easily as they can fill up at the petrol station,” said Nicolas Soucaille, general manager of UAE e-limousine company Blacklane.

“That’s something that needs to improve in this part of the world. We’re a little bit behind the likes of Europe but the UAE is adapting and, as you can see with Cop28, the ambition is there to move quickly on this.”

He made his comments from the sidelines of the Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit, taking place this week at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Earlier this month, the UAE announced plans were under way to introduce cheaper and faster EV charging stations.

Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said plans were in place to increase the number of charging stations to 800 in the year ahead, news agency Wam reported.

This came as demand for EVs in the UAE was projected to grow at a compound rate of 30 per cent every year until 2028, according to the global electric mobility readiness index.

Mr Al Mazrouei told the summit this week that EV sales were increasing and now accounted for 1 per cent of the vehicles on UAE roads.

EV sales were projected to reach 14 million this year, up from 10 million last year, according to a report last month from the International Energy Agency.

Charging challenges

But challenges remain.

“If you live in a villa today, then it’s very easy to be able to charge your car,” said Mr Soucaille.

“That’s not the case for those living in apartments though as not all towers would have the charging infrastructure needed to convert those residents into EV owners.

“The difficulty for many is where will they find a charger.”

Range anxiety with EVs is well documented. The worry that you will run out of charge before reaching your destination is something that has long been a conundrum for those in the sector.

It remains perhaps the biggest single issue surrounding EVs, not only in the UAE, but all over the world.

In Norway, where 80 per cent of all new car sales are EVs, the challenge of finding charging stations still rages, according to a recent report in The New York Times.

The Scandinavian country plans to stop selling all internal combustion engine cars by 2025.

However, the issue around the availability of charging stations remains a thorn in the industry’s side, with EV drivers there complaining about long queues during peak hours as well as faulty chargers.

In Abu Dhabi, there are plans under way to provide 70,000 charging points by 2030 to meet the growing EV demand.

Another issue is finding locations that can provide the power needed, another expert said.

“You need to have power available at locations before you have a charging station there and that’s not always simple,” said Vinay Premachandran, director of EV solutions firm Powertech.

“It can also take a long time to charge up a vehicle and that time needs to improve until it’s comparable [with an internal combustion engine].”

Tesla’s website said its own supercharger can provide up to 320 kilometres of charge in 15 minutes.

Recent advancements, he added, means charging times are being reduced constantly.

It is inevitable that EVs will eventually be more common on roads than internal combustion engine vehicles – it was simply a matter of when, he said.

Another roadblock is the perception that EVs were too expensive and beyond the financial reach of most, said another expert at the summit.

“The availability of products at the right price point has been a challenge but that is changing,” said Arvind CJ, partner at consultant firm Roland Berger.

“You are seeing more products available in the UAE than before and there are plans to significantly increase the number of charging stations as well.”

Updated: May 31, 2023, 3:20 AM