Goodbye gas guzzlers: Dubai targets Uber and Careem's big-engined saloons in hybrid push

90 per cent of rideshare vehicles must be green by 2026, the RTA says

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - August 25, 2016.  Sharan Sunner ( Account Manager - House of Comms ) tries out the Uber taxi service, as she is assisted by Waleed Nawaz Chattha ( Driver - Uber ).  The service is purely dependent on internet transaction when booking a taxi.  ( Jeffrey E Biteng / The National )  Editor's Note;  ID 28976  Sharan Sunner agrees to act like a customer. *** Local Caption ***  JB250816-Uber02.jpg
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Gas-guzzling saloons used by Uber and Careem may be consigned to history after Dubai's transport authority said nearly all private taxis must go green.

The Roads and Transport Authority set annual targets to hit from next year and said 90 per cent of vehicles must be hybrid or electric by 2026.

The decision on Saturday will affect what the authority classes as 'limousines' operating across Dubai.

The vast majority are large Lexus ES and LS saloons - often with engines as large as 3.5-litres, while others are seven-seaters. Fleets are often owned by companies and their drivers work as subcontractors for Uber and Careem.

"Nearly 6,500 limos are operated in Dubai by 100 companies or more. Each vehicle travels about 400 km per day, which translates into the production of 44 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum," said Mattar Al Tayer, the authority's director-general.

At present, just six per cent of private taxi vehicles are hybrid, the RTA said.

That must rise to 10 per cent by 2020, and double up to 20 per cent in 2021. The proportion of environmental-friendly vehicles will pick up to 30 per cent by 2022, and the momentum will continue annually afterwards to reach 40 per cent in 2023, 55 per cent in 2024, 70 per cent in 2025 and 90 per cent in 2026.

An Uber driver behind the wheel in the UAE. Courtesy: Uber UAE
An Uber driver behind the wheel in the UAE. Courtesy: Uber UAE

Mr Al Tayer said the aim is "to save power consumption in the UAE, which is crucial for environmental sustainability".

"The step is part of a master plan to curb carbon emissions of taxis and limos by two per cent, as required by the Dubai Supreme Council of Energy and the Green Economy drive. It also comes in the aftermath of fuel deregulation policy and the low cost of electric/hybrid vehicles life span compared with fuel-powered vehicles."

He said the move should not be seen as a financial burden on operators, but an incentive to move to more sustainable vehicles.

"RTA studies on the use of electric/hybrid vehicles showed that financial savings of using electric vehicles amount to Dh20,000 over the life cycle of each vehicle," he said.

"Hybrid vehicles make a saving of Dh30,000. From an environmental perspective, electric vehicles do not have any harmful emissions, while the use of hybrid vehicles cuts emissions by 40 per cent."

He said private company fleets should be 65 per cent hybrid and 25 per cent electric.

The RTA will offer a 25 per cent discount on the monthly franchise fees on electric vehicles throughout the first year. It will also permit electric vehicles to use bus-dedicated lanes, in addition to increasing electric vehicles life span to two years more than fuel-powered vehicles.

The publicly-owned Dubai Taxi Corporation fleet is already undergoing a shift towards hybrid vehicles. At present 28 per cent are hybrid, which will rise to 50 per cent or 4,750 vehicles by 2021.