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Tesla Makes Middle East Debut, Brings Electric Cars to UAE

6 March, 2017
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American automaker Tesla and its electric cars have finally rolled into the Middle East region, with an official launch that took place on February 13 in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai. 

Tesla’s Model S sedan (valued at $74,872) and Model X SUV ($93,659) are already available for order and are expected to be delivered by the summer. A pop-up shop has been set up in Dubai Mall, and a service center on Sheikh Zayed Road is slated to open in July. The UAE will become the 22nd country in the world to have a Tesla service center on its soil.

Investing in the Middle East is a big move for the electric car company. With petrol prices so low in the Gulf region, advocating for cars that run on electricity would seem futile. However, the UAE seems to be standing by its commitment to reduce dependency on oil in order to move towards a diversified and sustainable economy. As such, Tesla’s aim to be a key member of the world’s transition to sustainable transportation and energy fits well with the UAE’s development model.

"We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructures," said Tesla CEO Elon Musk at the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 13. "By next year, you’ll be able to travel anywhere in the GCC with an electric vehicle."

Musk also noted the challenges ahead. With petrol prices remaining inexpensive, it would be difficult to convince customers that switching to electric cars is the best choice at the moment. Depsite this, Tesla does not seem deterred from moving forward. 

"Petrol is low-priced but my understanding is that in the last year or two the price has risen quite a bit," said Musk. "To fill up a premium sedan might cost something in the order of $25 to $30, but that same amount of electricity here would only cost $10. Also, the reliability of an electric car is better than a gasoline car because there are fewer moving parts that require service, there are no oil changes, you never need to change the brake pads because there’s regenerative braking, and there’s no tune-up needed.”

Coincidently enough, Tesla’s launch in the UAE comes just two weeks before the country announced that it would increase petrol prices in March. 

Tesla fits into the UAE’s larger plan for moving toward more sustainable, and smarter, development, and away from a petrol-based economy. The government-designed UAE Vision 2021 national agenda, launched in 2010, looks to pivot the emirates toward “a diversified and knowledge-based economy”. 

The agenda largely strives for “the UAE to sustain its drive toward economic diversification, as this is the nation's surest path to sustainable development in a future that is less reliant on oil”.

Musk signed the agreement to bring Tesla to the UAE with Mattar Al Tayer, the UAE’s Director General and Chairperson of the Board of Executive Directors of the Road and Transport Authority. In a statement released after the announcement, Al Tayer noted that the agreement aims to be part of Dubai’s transformation into “the world’s smartest city”, and fits within the Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative. 

After the February announcement, the Dubai RTA announced that it will purchase 200 Tesla Model S sedans and Model X SUVs to be used the by the emirate’s official taxi service, Dubai Taxi Corporation.

There are already a number of Tesla vehicle owners in the Middle East region, according to a report by Electrek; however, such vehicles had to be individually imported by users given the absence of a Tesla center in the region. 

According to The National, Tesla also plans to open up a service center and shop in Abu Dhabi next year. There are two supercharger stations in Abu Dhabi, 26 Tesla destination chargers operating across the country, and 50 more scheduled to be added before 2018. There are also plans to extend charging stations to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.  

Tags Tesla UAE sustainable energy