I landed a couple of pretty interesting scoops today while in Abu Dhabi for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week*.
First of all, I found out that Tesla is opening a store in the UAE next month. It’s unclear if the store will be in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, or if there will be stores in both cities, but an announcement is presumably coming soon.
Tesla’s entry into the UAE was expected for a while, though, and Tesla owners in the UAE were pushing for it publicly last year. The much bigger surprise (which I wasn’t digging for) was that the vice ruler of Dubai, His Highness Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has both a Tesla Model S and a Tesla Supercharger at his home.
This information came from two sources in a UAE ministry who said he could charge his Tesla in “15–20 minutes” with the Supercharger.
There is potential for misunderstanding here — people have been known to confuse Tesla destination chargers with Superchargers — but that would be an odd mistake given the knowledge one of the sources had on various technical EV matters (this person was extremely well informed and seemingly had first-hand experience with the Supercharger), the confirmation by a second source, and both of them claiming that His Highness Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Supercharger could charge in “15–20 minutes” … which is certainly faster than Tesla Superchargers allow from a full discharge but is much closer to Supercharger speed than the speed of any other charging station. Nonetheless, it’s hard to believe there’s a Supercharger in a Dubai driveway, so it would be cool to get a picture of the Supercharger for full confirmation — anyone want to leak me a photo?
After reaching out to Tesla for official comment about this Supercharger story as well as the rumor that Tesla is opening a store in the UAE next month, the concise response I got was: “We don’t have anything to share yet but will certainly keep you posted on any news relating to the UAE.”
As you probably know, it’s super rare for any individual or company to have a Tesla Supercharger. Almost all of them are installed by Tesla (often between major cities) to enable convenient long-distance travel for Tesla owners.
But hey, if you want some super duper charging convenience at home (you know, in case you have only one car and can’t afford taxis), a Supercharger can come in handy. More seriously, it’s not as if the vice ruler of Dubai couldn’t drop some cash for a Supercharger without a shrug or concern.
Interestingly, this accidental scoop came after days of digging for comments about stranded assets and the totally insane carbon bubble. Given the UAE leadership’s deep awareness of Tesla, as well as all of the other cleantech fields it is delving into, I think the rulers of the UAE must be very focused on the economic threat of stranded assets. I’ll come back to that in a moment as well as in future articles.
First, though, for a quick summary of who His Highness Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum is, I turned to Wikipedia. Wikipedia tells me that, born December 25, 1945, he is the Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the Minister of Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum is also the second son of late ruler Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (1912–1990). Going on:
“Sheikh Hamdan received his early education in the Emirates, then attended Bell School of Languages, Cambridge. He and his brother, Sheikh Mohammed, control the state-owned Dubai Ports World along with the Dubai Holding Co. and its many subsidiary companies, which have wide ranging investments in hotels, apartment buildings, banking and finance, and healthcare facilities. Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been the head of the UAE’s delegation at the International Monetary Fund and the OPEC Fund.”
In other words, this is an extremely powerful man who sits near the top of the global oil & gas industry. I imagine his Tesla experience is slightly different from the norm — perhaps some sort of concern mixed with the fun.
Whether you’re leading a corporate or governmental oil & gas giant, a dramatic reduction in oil & gas demand from coming auto market disruption caused clean electric vehicles can’t be an uplifting topic. Even if you understand the critical importance of climate action — which it seems the UAE leadership does understand — going from vast wealth and riches to a period of likely economic decline is tough.
However, if the future is coming anyway (and rather quickly), it’s certainly better to try to find a strong and fruitful alley into that future than not, isn’t it? Name an oil & gas giant — whether a nation or a corporation — that seems to have that approach. I can’t think of a single one other than the UAE. (Though, Total’s large stake in SunPower and Saft might put it in that company.)
People with a very skeptical take on the world can come here and portray the UAE’s and Masdar’s efforts as a mirage, as a PR stunt, as a limited attempt at cleantech leadership, but every time I visit I think the evidence is stronger that the UAE intends to remain a global economic leader for decades to come by looking decades out and trying to set its table for a different era. I’ve questioned dozens of people working for or alongside Masdar in my 5 visits here in the past 4 years. I received many genuine responses, but I don’t recall anyone disagreeing with that viewpoint. On the contrary, many of these people have enthusiastically echoed that sentiment.
As I’ve written before, Masdar has a multi-pronged approach to cleantech leadership — research & innovation (Masdar Institute of Science and Technology), investment (Masdar Capital), clean energy development (Masdar Clean Energy), and a physical center to convene cleantech leaders and stimulate cleantech progress (Masdar City). If you were an oil & gas giant and saw the future coming, what would you do? Would you have the foresight to pump billions of dollars into that integrated approach?
*Full disclosure: My trip to Abu Dhabi is hosted by Masdar, including flight, hotel, and meals. However, this scoop was on the sidelines of any Masdar-related events.
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