People who don’t like electric cars have never driven electric cars. The Global EV Road Trip wants to introduce as many people as possible to electric cars so they become less of a mystery and more of a reality. Its motto is “Accelerating Electric Vehicle Adoption” and it does that by promoting the installation of EV charging stations and by sponsoring ride & drive events where people can learn about electric cars.
EVs are still rare in the Middle East. Tesla opened its first showroom in the Middle East in Dubai last July. Renault began selling the Zoe 40 there last fall. Chevrolet is about to begin selling the Bolt in the UAE. Charging infrastructure is still in its infancy in the area. Tesla has three Supercharger locations in the Emirates but conventional chargers are still hard to find in much of the country (though, the Dubai map doesn’t look too bad).
GreenParking is working with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority to install hundreds of public charging stations in the area. The company was one of the primary sponsors of the Global EVRT 2018 event, which celebrated the opening of several new charging stations at resorts in the area, including the first chargers in Oman. Thanks to the efforts of GreenParking, there are now hundreds of public charging stations in the Emirates (mostly Dubai), with more coming every day.
This year’s event was designed primarily to explode the myth that electric cars are just for short hops around town. Over the course of two weeks, the entourage of electric cars covered more than 1,200 kilometers between Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Oman. In total, there were 5 Teslas — 4 Model S sedans and 1 Model X — and 3 Chevy Bolts. After each leg of the journey, members of the public were invited to drive the cars in the group.
Electric vehicles are a new idea for most people and that makes them mysterious. What are they? What do they do? What makes them better than a conventional car? How do they fit into the daily driving needs of mainstream drivers? Being able to touch the cars, sit in them, and drive them goes a long way toward erasing any doubts or fears about owning an EV.
Living with the cars for nearly a week taught me a lot. I have driven plug-in hybrids before but never a fully electric car. I have to say I never once worried about having enough range to get where I wanted to go. But that is mostly because Ben Pullen and his EVRT team were up all night switching cars around so they all would be fully charged in the morning. Our daily drives were never longer than the cars were capable of travelling on a single charge. That also helped.
One interesting experience was driving up Mount Jais in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. At over 6,000 feet, it is the highest point in the Emirates and is accessed by a most entertaining road that is the equal of many Alpine adventures — without the vegetation, that is. It may not be quite the Stelvio Pass, but it’s close. At the base, the Chevy Bolt I was driving showed 295 km of range. 12 kilometers later, at a rest area near the top, that number had dropped to 185 km — we had used enough electricity to drive 110 km on level roads during our 12 km ascent.
On the way down, using regen braking as much as possible, we arrived back on level ground with 271 miles of range. The car had recaptured nearly 80% of the energy need to go up on the way back down. We all know that figures lie and liars figure and you engineers out there may interpret the data differently, but that was a damned impressive feat, in my humble estimation. If we had been in a conventional car, it would be like having a little man running behind putting gas back into the tank as we went downhill. Cool!
If you are in the UAE and want to go where there are chargers available, you’re in luck. But otherwise, driving an electric car could have some drawbacks. On our last day, we stopped at a full-service plaza along the highway to get the cars washed prior to arriving at the finish line for the trip at The Sustainable City in Dubai. It had dozens of gas pumps, tire pressure machines, drive-through oil change lanes, restaurants, and a tire store but not one charger.
The EVRT ended at The Sustainable City outside downtown Dubai. This is a development of 500 homes where the residents walk or ride bicycles to get around. The car parking is on the edge of the community, and there are indeed EV charging stations there. Water recycling is used extensively (much of the water in the Emirates comes from desalination) and most of the electricity consumed is derived from solar panels. In order to reduce the use of plastic bags, the citizens make bags made out of cloth and sell them throughout the enclave. There are also dispensers everywhere for aqueous ozone — a cleaner that replaces soap and detergents in most applications including for doing laundry. It was the ideal place to showcase the sustainable nature of the electric vehicles on the tour.
Photos by the author.