'Range anxiety' still an issue when it comes to electric vehicles, experts say

Experts at Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi outline what needs to happen to win over public opinion

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Issues over "range anxiety" need to be overcome before people in the Gulf fully embrace electric vehicles, experts have said.

Fears of the car battery running out of charge is one of the biggest hurdles the EV industry needs to overcome in order to win over a still-dubious public according to experts speaking at the opening day of the Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

They acknowledged the huge strides made by the UAE in increasing the number of EVs on its roads, before outlining the challenges that still lie ahead.

“In the UAE there is still that gap in the market where there are areas where charging stations are not available,” said Ali Ghate, chief commercial officer in the UK for EV charging manufacturers Catec.

“There are other regions too where there is a good infrastructure [of charging stations] but the anxiety is still there.

“There is a lack of awareness and I think we as an industry can do more to raise awareness.”

Ahmed Abdu, centre, product marketing director at ABB, at the Electrical Vehicle Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari / The National

At the start of the month, the UAE announced plans to increase the number of EV charging stations to 800 by the end of the year.

Suhail Al Mazrouei, Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, who was speaking at the World Utilities Conference 2023, said the country aimed to introduce new legislation that would decrease charging times while ensuring efficiency or cost were not negatively affected.

The demand for EVs in the UAE is on the rise, with a projected annual growth rate of 30 per cent until 2028, according to last year’s global electric mobility readiness index published last year.

“A lot of people who buy EVs do so because they are able to charge them at home, with many of the car dealerships installing them in homes,” said Mr Ghate.

“In the UAE, and especially Dubai, though a lot of people live in apartments and high rise towers.

“There isn’t the capacity to provide a charger for each single user.

“That is why the public infrastructure is key for these people to adopt EVs. If they buy an EV they want to know where they can charge it.”

While there are challenges to overcome, the UAE is better placed than most.

The country was ranked eighth in the world when it came to readiness for electric mobility, according to a report by consultancy Arthur D Little.

While range anxiety is an issue for the EV industry across the world, there is a particular challenge when it comes to the Mena region, another expert said.

“This region has a high number of people driving long distances especially in countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE,” said Ahmed Abdu, product marketing director for EV charging station manufacturers ABB-UAE.

“Driving from city to city is quite common here, even in the UAE you just have to look at the number of people living in Dubai and working in Abu Dhabi.

“You never feel afraid when you’re driving a diesel car because you know there’ll be a gas station nearby but it is not as easy to find a charging station.

“Driving an EV is a new experience for most and people will always have questions, it is our responsibility to provide them with the right knowledge."

Updated: May 30, 2023, 12:25 PM