By Angel Tesorero
Sustainability and smart mobility are at the core of Dubai’s vision to become the ‘smartest’ city in the world. Add to the equation the fast developing technology and we witness a big change in how taxis are being operated in the city.
A couple of days ago, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) rolled out 50 Tesla electric vehicles for the limo fleet of the Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC). Before this, the RTA had endorsed a contract for procuring 554 environment-friendly hybrid cars to support Dubai’s green initiative.
The RTA actually took the first step in a comprehensive plan to reduce pollution and make vehicles in Dubai environment-friendly and fuel-efficient almost a decade ago, Dr Yousef Al Ali, CEO of DTC, said in an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times.By the year-end, Dubai will have 1,582 hybrid taxis (run by various taxi operators) that will help curb the pollution caused by vehicles and save fuel consumption.
On top of that, the DTC, an agency under the RTA, will have a total of 200 Tesla electric cars by 2019 and 50 per cent of its 5,000-unit taxi fleet will be hybrid by 2021. Furthermore, the Dubai Smart Autonomous Mobility Strategy is aimed at converting 25 per cent of total trips into driverless journeys by 2030.
In November 2007, the RTA signed an agreement with US-based General Motors and the Government of Dubai to operate at least 10 hybrid vehicles beginning from January the following year.
“The pilot trial of 10 hybrid cars proved the seriousness of the RTA in promoting sustainability and adapting to technology. We are the first government entity in the region to operate hybrid taxicabs,” Al Ali pointed out.
He added that “the series of experimentation (of the 10 hybrid taxis) from 2008-2011 resulted in diminishing carbon emissions by 30 per cent and cutting fuel consumption by 30 per cent per vehicle,” which was in line with the strategy to reduce carbon emissions in the emirate by two per cent as called for by the Supreme Council of Energy in Dubai.
Moreover, results of the test run revealed that the first set of hybrid cars covered a total of 550,000km without serious faults or requiring maintenance of major parts.
“Of course, we made some modifications and rewired some parts to make them suitable to our environment,” Al Ali said. According to Al Ali, the cost of procuring hybrid cars was initially subsidised by the government since a hybrid vehicle costs 40 per cent more compared to a regular petrol car.
Reducing carbon emission
“But we are not only talking about the cost or revenue here; we are more focused on sustainability, reducing carbon emission and the future of mobility. Nevertheless, if we talk about fuel consumption, an ordinary vehicle needs about 12.1 litres of petrol to cover 100km, whereas a hybrid vehicle will only consume 8.47 litres to cover the same distance,” Al Ali noted.
“Hybrid vehicles save fuel consumption by as much as 25.41 litres per vehicle per day – equivalent to Dh54.38 savings per vehicle per day (with fuel price at Dh2.14 per litre). They are also environment-friendly – a petrol car generates about 289kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day, whereas hybrid generates only 202kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day,” he underlined.
With the introduction of hybrid taxi, the DTC taxi drivers also underwent intensive training to get familiarised with the vehicles, according to Al Ali. He explained how hybrid cars work. He said they have an internal combustion engine and can be fuelled like normal cars.
When a hybrid car runs below 60km, it uses battery power; when it runs above 60km, it uses fuel and while running on fuel, it generates electric power to recharge the battery pack so it does not need to go to a charging station.
Moving forward, Al Ali said the future of taxis in Dubai and worldwide is in self-driving and electric vehicles. “We need to evaluate how taxis are operated and this will be changed soon,” he said.
He indicated that the way people move around major urban centres, like in Dubai, is bound for a dramatic change. Technological innovations like electrification, connectivity, car-sharing and autonomous vehicles are on the horizon and they are sure to disrupt traditional mobility patterns.
“The taxi sector will be changed; our traditional way of operating taxis will be changed,” Al Ali emphasised. “We already have the smart taxi app and with just a press of a button, a taxi comes to you.”
Everyday Dubai is growing and there are always new projects that require mobility. There is a market segmentation and there are strong partnerships that blend public transit and private mobility to produce the best transport solutions, Al Ali said. – The RTA is at the forefront of preparing for the future, according to Al Ali. He noted that the government is crafting regulations consistent with consumer-friendly technological developments that also promote clean air and reduced congestion. These changes will allow people to travel more efficiently, more cheaply, and in various ways.
How hybrid cars work
A hybrid vehicle utilises more than one form of onboard energy to achieve propulsion, meaning it will have a traditional internal-combustion engine and a fuel tank, as well as a battery pack. Hybrids also use an internal combustion engine and can be fuelled like normal cars-but have an electric motor and battery, and can be partially or wholly powered by electricity.
The addition of a battery-powered electric motor increases the fuel efficiency of hybrids. They also pollute less and save drivers money through fuel savings. When a hybrid car runs below 60km, it uses battery power; when it runs above 60km, it uses fuel and while running on fuel, it generates electric power to recharge the battery pack. The battery also provides energy for the air conditioner and other car accessories while the vehicle idles at stoplights or in traffic.
Difference between hybrid and electric car
An electric car is powered by an electric motor instead of a gasoline engine. To put it simply, an electric car is powered exclusively by electricity. The electric motor gets energy from a controller, which regulates the amount of power based on the driver’s use of an accelerator pedal. It uses electrical energy stored in rechargeable batteries. Electric cars require charging stations while hybrid vehicles don’t.
Hybrid taxis play a key role in nurturing a safe, clean and attractive environment:
Fuel efficiency – An ordinary vehicle needs about 12.1 litres of petrol to cover 100 km, whereas a hybrid vehicle needs about 8.47 litres to cover the same distance.
Environment friendly – The ordinary vehicle generates about 289 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day, whereas hybrid generates only 202 kg of carbon dioxide emissions per day.
Savings – Hybrid vehicles save fuel consumption by as much as 25.41 litres per vehicle per day – equivalent to Dh54.38 savings per vehicle per day (fuel price at Dh2.14 per litre).