| 18 November, 2017

Scale-up: Slash the cost of electric car charger to that of an iPhone X

For that to happen, UAE cities will need to install masses of chargers across parking lots

A Tesla's electric car is charged at its showroom in Taipei, Taiwan August 11, 2017.

A Tesla's electric car is charged at its showroom in Taipei, Taiwan August 11, 2017.

Reuters/Tyrone Siu
Dubai: A “hard-core smackdown of gasoline” is how Elon Musk would like electric to lord it over in the years to come. And if the Tesla boss has his way — he usually does, come to think of it — that day would come sooner than anyone anticipated. Other than himself, of course.

Musk was saying these memorable, albeit brutal, lines at Tesla’s unveiling in the US of its next big thing — a roadster that will push all sorts of boundaries in defining speed. And in an electric manner.

Musk was not in Dubai for the Motor Show, but there will still plenty of adherents for the electric way of driving around. While electric and self-driving had passing mentions at the 2015 event, now these modes were enjoying centre stage. Alongside all of those fuel-imbibing models on the stands. In Dubai, it didn’t look as if one was going to overtake — or smack down — the other. It was all peaceable.

General Motors’ Chevy said it would have the whole-electric Bolt nicely humming through UAE roads in a year’s time. By the time the next edition of the Dubai show turns up, in 2019, enough carmakers will have come up with their versions. In between, there’s always the Tesla Model 3.

But industry sources kept harping on one point though — for electric to light up in high enough numbers, the chargers need to be put up everywhere. And in sizeable numbers, even within the same location.

“Only if you have scale, only then would the cost of a plug come to less than $1,000 per installation,” said Markus Dodd, Founder of the German firm eCharge and which recently set up operations in Dubai. “That’s about the price of an iPhone X.

“For that to happen, we should be talking about 10,000 or 20,000 plugs citywide. If it’s only one or two, then we are talking costs $5,000 or $10,000 depending on the groundwork for the whole installation.

“Every parking lot needs a plug. That’s the task of the energy companies, because they take care of the whole grid.

“And if we are talking about those for residents in towers, the house owner should offer these plugs as a service, in the same way he would provide for a lift.”

If carmakers resolve the issue of range on a single charge and get help from all and sundry on putting the plugs all over a city, electrics future is made. Even in the gasoline loving universe of the Gulf’s car owners.

What the UAE and Gulf car industry can expect

Roll-out of VAT from January — Will prospective car buyers be put off from upgrading to a newer model when it hits the showrooms? Will 5 per cent be such a mental block for them? Expect an answer from the Q1-18 sales clocked up by region-wide dealers.

Saudi Arabia allowing women to obtain licenses — By June next, this should have full regulatory clarity. Even more modest expectations have sufficient numbers of women buying their own cars thereafter. Even a few percentage point gains would be good enough for the Gulf’s largest auto market.
By Manoj Nair

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