DUBAI // Sustainable travel hit the UAE running on Monday, as US electric car maker Tesla opened for business in Dubai with plans to launch a shop and service centre in Abu Dhabi next year.
Chief executive Elon Musk said at the World Government Summit in Dubai that the company planned to invest millions in the UAE on infrastructure including recharging stations.
“We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructures,” Mr Musk said. “By next year, you’ll be able to travel anywhere in the GCC with an electric vehicle.”
Mr Musk said that shifting car buyers from petrol to electric would probably be the company’s biggest challenge in the region.
Orders have started for Tesla’s Model S sedan and Model X SUV, which are expected to be delivered this summer. Prices start from Dh275,000 for the Model S and Dh344,000 for the X.
Monday’s launch includes a pop-up shop in Dubai Mall, a Tesla Ranger support service and a service centre being built near Interchange 2 of Sheikh Zayed Road, which is due to open in July.
Two Supercharger stations have been set up at the Last Exit in Jebel Ali and Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, with five more planned before the end of the year.
There are also 26 Tesla destination chargers operating across the country, including at hotels and malls, with another 50 to be added before next year.
Tesla is planning to double charging sites by the end of the year and extend into Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Mr Musk said that entering a region where petrol is so cheap would not be problematic.
“Petrol is low-priced but my understanding is that in the last year or two the price has risen quite a bit,” Mr Musk said. “To fill up a premium sedan might cost something in the order of US$25 [Dh92] 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.
“So there’s a lower cost of operation in general.”
Mr Musk said the company had addressed other factors, including the UAE’s extreme weather conditions.
“We do hot-weather testing in Death Valley in California, literally the hottest place on Earth,” he said. “When we do our testing, the car has to climb a steep mountain road in the middle of summer at noon. So it’s really capable of handling very hot situations.
“We test the battery cells at 67°C, so it can really be in a really hot situation and still be fine. It’s actually a little more challenging when it’s colder, to be honest.
“Air conditioning reduces the battery range, but it’s not as much as you might think. Typically what we see in environments that are hot and humid, such as California, we see 10 to 15 per cent reduction in range. But on a day like today, almost nothing.
“I think one of the biggest challenges we face is changing people’s pattern of behaviour. Convincing them to consider a change is typically our biggest challenge.”
The company’s 557,420 “gigafactory” in Nevada, when complete, will be able to fit eight Burj Khalifas lying down, and will be entirely powered by sustainable energy.
The Model S can reach 100kph in 2.5 seconds, putting it side by side with the world’s fastest car, the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport.
Tesla said that the Model S could run up to 632 kilometres on one charge. But according to Tesla’s calculator, one full charge can take it between 391km to 549km at 32° C, depending on modifications.
Although a few seconds slower, the Model X can hit 100kph in about 2.9 seconds. It has seating for seven adults plus bags, and a 100 kilowatt-hour battery that can push it for up to 565km.