Dubai event seeks to cut big-city air pollution

Intermobility Expo hears how alternative fuel and more EV charging points can help tackle challenges of rapidly growing modern cities

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Waste-to-hydrogen power plants and building out the national grid to power electric vehicles (EVs) are among potential solutions for city planners to ease congestion and pollution, a future mobility conference heard.

With more than 700,000 people using the Dubai Metro daily, and the city's extended cycle pathways and e-scooter routes becoming more popular, experts have identified clear signs some people are happy to ditch their cars and choose alternative, cleaner modes of transport.

Data and analytics help us to manage and develop the transport systems that are required
Ibrahim Yousef Ramel, chief executive of Saaed

However, as Dubai's population is forecast to grow by millions over the next decade, reducing congestion and pollution remains a challenge.

"On scalability and the growing population, we are looking to a target close to a 10 per cent share of vehicles being electric in 2030, equivalent to approximately 200,000 vehicles," said Faisal Al Rashid, senior director of demand-side management at the Supreme Council of Energy, at the Intermobility Expo at Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday.

"The acceleration is positive but you also want to ensure this will not affect the current electric grid.

"There is a part we have to play to work with the private sector in terms of driving the car supply side and also developing more charging points."

Recent data compiled in the 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard from analysts Inrix revealed Dubai motorists sat in stationary traffic for an average of 22 hours a year, while drivers in Abu Dhabi were held up for about 12 hours.

Road improvements and traffic management plans have brought waiting time down considerably from pre-2020, when drivers spent 80 hours a year in traffic jams in Dubai and 50 hours in Abu Dhabi.

Population boom

Dubai’s population is expected to increase from about 3.5 million today, to 5.8 million by 2040, with increased traffic and air pollution major concerns.

But it is not only EVs that could hold the key to cleaner air in busy modern cities.

Production has begun on the region's first fuel cell-grade hydrogen plant that converts waste wood and plastic into power.

The Beeah group is developing the plant in Sharjah, with the aim of potentially using hydrogen cells to power waste collection lorries.

An on-site green hydrogen dispensing station will be capable of fuelling several vehicles, using hydrogen refinement technology developed by Japanese firm Air Water.

A range of transport options and greener vehicles on the roads are key to reducing traffic and pollution as Dubai grows, said Ibrahim Yousef Ramel, chief executive of traffic management services Saeed.

“Mobility is the cornerstone of a smart city,” said Mr Ramel, who was speaking at the Intermobility Expo, which runs until Thursday.

"As an urban planner, you have to have an integrated plan between all stakeholders to agree on the priority and strategy.

"Without a fair distribution of services, you will create more traffic and more carbon emissions."

Mr Ramel said the emirate had already had tangible results in improved mobility, with 700,000 using the Dubai Metro daily.

"Imagine what the streets would be like if that had not have happened," he said.

E-scooters

Mr Ramel said the increasing popularity of e-scooters was a clear sign of people moving towards greener transport.

Underlining the increasing use of e-scooters for hire in Dubai is the 1 million trips recorded in 2022, double the number of the previous year, the Roads and Transport Authority said.

“You have to look at mobility and interconnectivity from many different perspectives,” said Mr Ramel.

“People are riding the sea bus because it's very cheap and tourists can travel around the whole city and enjoy fabulous views, without using roads.

“Data and analytics helps us with this, to manage and develop the transport systems that are required.

“We have seen that in the way infrastructure for e-scooters has developed as they have become more popular. It is all interconnected.”

Updated: November 22, 2023, 6:30 AM