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Electric vehicles take off in the Middle East

There has been steady growth both in Saudi and the UAE, and certainly worldwide, in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) being purchased

Travel range isn’t a great concern among Saudi drivers 95% of respondents said they’d recommend getting an EV Most people appreciate the dramatic differences gained from low noise and faster acceleration

There is a lot of pressure on governments around the world to commit to becoming carbon neutral and the Middle East is no exception. Reducing the number of petrol-driven cars on the road is integral to this mission. As a result, there has been steady growth both in Saudi and the UAE, and certainly worldwide, in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) being purchased. Car manufacturers are constantly releasing different models to cater to this broadening market.

Borderless Access has done a deep dive into who is buying EVs and what they look for in one, with a special focus on owners living in Saudi and the UAE.

Is it a youth-driven movement?

Worldwide, 88% of EV owners are under the age of 45. Bordeless Access witnessed a similar trend in Saudi and the UAE. Furthermore, 20% of global EV owners in the 18-25-year age group claim that their current EV is not their first electric car. This claim rises to 30% in the UAE.

Feature seeking in the Middle East

When it comes to wanting more out of electric cars, the worldwide trend is that men want more, i.e. more driving range and specifically more features. Both men and women want more power, but women are far less likely to seek an upgrade of their EV with 15% of women being happy to keep their current model compared to 8% of men.

A different picture emerges from Saudi EV drivers. Range isn’t a great concern among this cohort, pointing to perhaps electric vehicles not being used outside of the cities.  Both men and women want more power in their EVs, but women are more interested in new features and getting an upgrade. This could be because driving is a new phenomenon among Saudi women and as a result, they are very interested in all that cars, of any kind, have to offer.

In the UAE, twice as many men EV owners want more drive range than women do, and considerably more men are interested in greater power output. Yet, as in Saudi, women in UAE are more interested in the different features available in electric cars compared to their male counterparts. Women are also more interested in an upgrade.

Drive range and charging options are still a concern

Almost two-thirds of EV owners worldwide still own an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car. This rises to 81% in Saudi and 77% in the UAE. While just under two-thirds of people use their EV as their primary vehicle, there are certain situations, such as traveling long-distance and to remote destinations, where an ICE vehicle is still the car of choice.

Range is the biggest drawback for half of all EV owners, however being unable to charge their vehicle is also a concern, especially among women. Globally 41% of women worry about not being able to charge their vehicle. This rises to 43% of women living in the UAE and 57% of women in Saudi.

While 95% of respondents said they’d recommend getting an EV, the purchase is not without its drawbacks. The long charging time is sometimes a hassle. To fully charge an electric car with a large battery plugged into a  fast-charging station can take as little as 30 minutes, however for an EV with a slow recharging unit can be an overnight affair. Getting used to these time frames can be frustrating for some EV owners. The next aspect that hinders EV drivers is the lack of public charging stations. While governments are working on increasing the number of charging stations, the rollout of these will be uneven, especially at the beginning.

Best of both worlds: Using EVs differently

Around half of all owners claim to use their EV cars in the same way they’d use an ICE car. That means that half of the people are using their cars differently – for shorter, city-bound driving that better suits the uses of a second car. We can expect this to change as drive range increases even for low-priced EVs from different brands and when charging stations become ubiquitous.

Surprise findings

Only 4% of people say that driving their electric car doesn’t feel that different from a petrol-driven car. Most people appreciate the dramatic differences gained from low noise and faster acceleration. Also, since most car manufacturers are focusing on growing their EV market share, it’s the space where the most innovation is happening so that new drivers of EVs report enjoying the additional convenience features that companies are incorporating in their EVs.

Takeaway points

Women drivers of electric vehicles in Saudi and the UAE are very interested in the different features available in different cars and are much more interested in upgrading their electric vehicles. Savvy marketers will target new cars and new features towards women, as a relatively new and growing demographic, in this region.

 While the infrastructure needed to support widespread EV rollout will take time, people interested in purchasing such a vehicle should consider if the current infrastructure supports their intended usage.

For more information on how to gather cutting-edge research on your sector, visit Borderless Access.