Motoring to a greener UAE with electric cars

With various sustainability events occurring in the new year, we look at the trend of electric cars, which is already strong in Europe and North America, and discuss their viability in the UAE
Onur Kirazci, left, and Michael Kraemer with their Fisker Karma electric cars. Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National
Onur Kirazci, left, and Michael Kraemer with their Fisker Karma electric cars. Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National

DUBAI // Electric cars are a rarely seen on the roads, particularly in the UAE, but the chances of seeing a car like Michael Kraemer’s pride and joy cruising down Sheikh Zayed Road got a whole lot rarer not long after he bought it.

Two months after he imported his Fisker Karma from the United States, the car’s manufacturer filed for bankruptcy. It was hardly a shock for the Dubai-based lawyer, who had studied the challenges facing the company.

Fisker was founded in 2007 by Henrik Fisker, a Danish designer for brands such as BMW and Aston Martin, who wanted to build a luxury sports vehicle with an electric engine.

By 2012, the company was already heading into trouble and production stopped in July that year. More bad news came the following year with Mr Fisker stepping down as executive chairman in March and 75 per cent of staff laid off in April. In November of that year, the company filed for bankruptcy.

But as far as Mr Kraemer was concerned, the Fisker Karma was still the only car he wanted to own and – because of the company’s problems – he could buy it for much less than the original asking price of more than US$100,000 (Dh367,000) for the basic model.

“The Americans, in particular, have really dropped it like hot potatoes,” said the 41-year-old, who bought a second-hand car less than a year old and with low mileage for a third of the original price. Since then he has driven it for about 20,000 kilometres.

“It is a beautiful car, I love it to bits,” said the 41-year-old German, who previously drove a Tazzari Zero, an Italian electric car that accidentally caught fire in his garage in February this year.

Yet despite the car’s stunning looks and relatively low price, owning a Fisker has not been a hassle-free experience. At one point, the car stopped charging and it took four months to repair.

“I knew what I got myself into and I did not complain when I faced difficulties, it was expected,” he said. “You need to buy this car with the right attitude.”

This is exactly the advice Mr Kraemer gave to his neighbour, Onur Kirazci, who is also a proud owner of a Fisker Karma.

A sports car enthusiast, Mr Kirazci, 41, previously drove a Ford Mustang GT but became increasingly aware of the harmful gasses released by the car’s five-litre petrol engine.

“The feeling of contributing to the pollution of the environment was causing concern,” said Mr Kirazci, a senior manager at a technology company.

Earlier this year Mr Kirazci, originally from Turkey, was contemplating buying a hybrid car but the brand he chose did not have the colour he wanted. He visited the Dubai Festival City showroom of Al-Futtaim Motors and saw a Karma.

“What got me interested was that it is an electric car but also a sports car,” he said. “I wanted a car with good performance.

“So far it has been great. The range is up to 70 kilometres, which takes you on the daily commute,” he said.

The car charges overnight in his garage via a regular electric plug. It takes seven hours to charge the battery fully. The car also has a petrol engine for use on longer trips, but he said he rarely has to queue for petrol. Driving with the electric engine is cheaper, too.

“So far my electricity bills have not increased dramatically, maybe in the range of Dh300 to Dh400,” he said. Previously, he would spend as much as Dh600 on petrol.

Besides the design, Mr Kirazci said he also likes the performance. The car “is a much more smooth drive than a Mustang”, he said. It also has four doors and is “completely quiet”.

“If I had a car which met my criteria, I would prefer an electric vehicle because it is much more environmentally friendly,” Mr Kirazci said.

Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM


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