Amid rising fuel costs, will the UAE switch to hybrid cars?

With fuel prices set top rise in the UAE, will motorists change the types of cars they buy and go green?

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As the UAE gears up to pay more at the petrol pumps on August 1, car dealers are looking at the possible impact the change might have on motoring in the Gulf state, which for years has boasted some of the world’s cheapest fuel.

Hybrid cars have been proven to be cheaper for drivers – over a long period of time. With the semi-electronic cars shifting between battery and fuel operated motors, the rise of fuel prices in Dubai makes such vehicles an option to consider.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) said it would raise domestic prices for petrol and cut the price of diesel in an effort to save the government money and encourage motorists to use fuel more efficiently.

Under the new system the country’s Fuel Price Committee will monitor global prices for petrol and diesel on a daily basis. The committee will then the following month’s price on the 28th day based on average global prices.

But are UAE car dealers likely to see a change in the types of cars people buy? Will there be a sudden rush to replace fuel guzzlers with hi-tech hybrids? ‘Probably not’ UAE car dealers told Al Arabiya, and that is despite the long term savings motorist would stand to make.

Under average driving distances, a regular petrol-powered car would use around $12 (44 AED) in fuel every day, while a hybrid may use only $4 (15 AED). Calculated over a year the total cost of fuel would be about $3,000 (11,000 AED).

Compared to hybrids the savings are significantly less with the annual fuel consumption costing roughly $1,000 (3,600 AED).

Thomas Milz, Volkswagen Spokesperson, told Al Arabiya News: “Volkswagen welcomes the decision by the UAE Government to deregulate fuel prices and ultimately reduce fuel consumption in the Emirates.”

Hybrid cars are different from other cars in that the vehicles are powered by two sources: an internal combustion engine, and an electric motor.

Such cars are self-charging as they are amply charged by the rotation of the vehicle’s wheels.

Christopher Johnson from Volkswagen Dubai told Al Arabiya News: “Hybrid cars have a long-board battery, and this is used usually in conjunction with a small-capacity petrol engine which has been tuned for extreme economy.”

Such cars would benefit the environment as well due to the lower level of emissions the car produces as it shifts between its electric and fuel engines.

“Here in Dubai, we have a very forward thinking government and as you know there’s already some charging stations being built,” Johnson said.

“I believe that eventually most people will, at some point, be interested in hybrid vehicles but it really depends on the product that is supplied I think…these things are driven by the market, and if the fuel price was extremely high like it is in Europe then there is more demand for vehicles of this type,” he added.

Data found on car dealership website Carmudi, shows that hybrid, fuel efficient cars have not yet become as popular in developing markets as they have in western markets.

But there has been some slow change in car buyers’ habits globally according to the report.

Carmudi Middle East’s spokesperson Lubna Sohrab told UAE radio station Dubai Eye: “The deregulation of fuel prices could also trigger demand”

Meanwhile the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said the city’s taxi companies have already planned ahead, promising more than 200 hybrid taxis to hit the streets by the end of the year.

And the number is set to grow as a result of cost savings, improved fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance.

But despite all of this, Romano Coletta, from car dealership House of Cars, believes Dubai residents will continue to purchase regular fuel-burning cars.

“For a while, I think in Dubai, they are not more likely to buy hybrid cars. I think they will still buy fuel cars,” Coletta told Al Arabiya News.

Effective from August 1, the new fuel prices will be: diesel AED2.05, Super (98) AED2.25, Special (95) AED2.14, and E Plus (91) AED2.07.