Buying a car is always a massive decision - doubly so if you are opting to take the plunge into EV (electric vehicle) territory.
In an oil-rich region known for its cheap petrol and diesel, one can go a lifetime without considering buying anything other than a gas-powered vehicle. However, as the worlds' governments and scientific bodies put more and more emphasis on the importance of reducing pollution and global warming, and as electric cars continue to improve in specs and fall in price, it becomes tempting to wonder what it'd be like if you actually bought an electric vehicle (EV) for your next purchase, especially in the GCC.
You've heard it all before: EVs are cleaner, quieter, cheaper to maintain and overall better for the environment. Still, something often stops us from taking the leap, be it being misinformed or having little information about what it takes to really own an electric automobile.
Should you be considering the leap (and even if you're not), here are 5 things to consider before you buying your first EV in the GCC. (Note that we will be exclusively addressing PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles), and not hybrids.)
1. Are electric vehicles widely available in my country?
While people in the US and Europe might be lining up to buy the latest Tesla or Nissan Leaf, the electric vehicle market in the GCC is much less developed. Dealerships will rarely have any electric models in their showrooms, and if they do, their staff might not be as inclined or as informed to sell you them. In the US, some salespersons will deliberately sell you short on them, and some are even openly against them or don't understand them.
Last year, the Middle East saw its first-ever electric motor show debut in the region. Hosted in Beirut, Lebanon, we got to discover that more and more of the world's top brands were beginning to bring electric models to display at their dealerships, and education efforts of both staff and the public had begun.
Today, GCC countries like the UAE are putting more and more emphasis on clean travel, and as such many automotive brand are now importing electric models to sell at their dealership. Do you research and investigate if you'll have a healthy assortment of options to pick from locally, or if it's better to import from outside your country.
2. Does my country's infrastructure support EVs?
Another early question you must ask yourself is whether there is infrastructural support for electric vehicles in your country. There's little point in buying a fancy new electric vehicle if you have nowhere to charge it.
Today, this remains one of the greatest hurdles facing EV adoption in the world, as many country are still not equipped to support a fleet of EVs roaming their roads. Luckily, however, this has been changing - though admittedly at different paces in different countries.
Again, the UAE has been really at the forefront of this electric revolution in the GCC. In Dubai, for example, the Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (DEWA) notes that it has developed and deployed 240 charge points across the city, the locations of which are mapped and updated across 14 digital platforms, such as on the DEWA website and DEWA smart applications. You can find their EV charger locator tool here.
It's always better to check ahead of time if there are charging stations near where you live and/or work. In the GCC's small countries (save for Saudi) this might not be much of an issue, but it's always better to be prepared.
3. Can I install a charger at home?
Another logistical question you must be asking yourself is whether you are able to install a charger at home for an overnight top-up. While not absolutely necessary, especially since travel distances such as morning and afternoon commutes are relatively short in the GCC compared to the US, for example, home chargers are still an advantage to have. Still, not being able to install one at home due to housing circumstances (if you're renting an apartment, for example) should not be a deal breaker.
Again, installing a home charger is more vital if you travel long distances throughout the average week, and/or plan to own multiple EVs which would make charging them much more convenient.
4. Are dealerships in my country equipped to maintain electric vehicles?
One of the often touted advantages electric vehicles have over traditional gasoline-powered vehicles is that they have a lot less moving parts in their engine, meaning there is a much lesser chance of things breaking down and requiring maintenance.
"Maintaining an electric car, according to some estimates, will cost about one-third the current cost of maintaining a gasoline-powered car," HowStuffWorks explains.
Your biggest concern when buying an electric car is the battery, which is the heart and sound of any EV. While these vehicles are becoming more mainstream, the fact remains that a lot of the technology powering them is still novel and expensive, and this applies doubly so to the battery.
That's right. Should your battery wear out and need replacement, you're looking at spending thousands of dollars for a replacement. The good news, however, is that the price of a battery has dropped drastically in the past ten years, and will continue to do so as the market grows and the technology develops.
More importantly, it's important to note that EV batteries last a long time, Consumer Reports estimates the average EV battery pack's lifespan to be at around 200,000 miles, which is nearly 17 years of use if driven 12,000 miles per year, as cited per MyEV.com. This naturally differs by battery make, regional climate and usage, but it's safe to say you battery will last quite a long time. By the time it needs a replacement, prices will have dropped significantly.
5. Does an electric vehicle suit my needs?
Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself after you've done your research is whether an electric vehicle is really for you. In a region known for its wide-chassis SUVs and powerful pickup trucks perfect for a desert off-road trip, a compact hatchback or sedan EV might not be for you, The good news is that many EV models, like those of Tesla, are now on par with the offerings of established brands like BMW and Cadillac in terms of style, power, and comfort.
Buying a car has always been a personal experience. If you're satisfied with science and numbers, all that's left is to make a personal decision.
So how does driving an electric vehicle feel like? We test drove the Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback and the Volvo XC90 SUV, and we were not prepared!