Elon Musk promises that electric cars will become a reality in the GCC

As Tesla’s CEO turns his attention to the Gulf, could silent highways be in the UAE’s future?

The roar of traffic snaking along Sheikh Zayed Road could soon dissipate to a low purr following the launch in Dubai on Monday of the ground-breaking – and virtually silent – electric car, Tesla. Elon Musk, the company’s CEO, attended the World Government Summit in Dubai, where the launch was announced, promising that by next year, residents will be able to travel anywhere in the GCC in an electric vehicle.

Orders for the company’s Model S and Model X are now being accepted online, where customers can customise and place their orders in the UAE in the virtual design studio. Delivery of the first orders is expected this summer. Meanwhile, customers can visit a Tesla pop-up store in Dubai Mall while the service centre on Sheikh Zayed Road nears completion.

Prices start from Dh275,000 for the model S and Dh344,000 for the Model X.

Tesla is the world’s first fully electric car that claims to perform better than its petrol-powered counterparts, offering instant torque, incredible power (the Model S accelerates from 0 to 100kph in 2.7 seconds, while the Model X does so in 3.1 seconds) and zero emissions. Founded in 2003 in California’s Silicon Valley by a group of engineers, all Tesla cars contain the hardware to be fully self-driving, with a greater degree of safety than with a human at the wheel. 

We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars into the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructures

Elon Musk, Founder, Tesla

Speaking on the advantages of electric cars over petrol power, Musk, said: “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."

He also compared fuel costs, saying that a tank of petrol that currently costs US$30 in the UAE would only cost US$10 in electricity.

Tesla’s success in the UAE will rely on an efficient and widely available charging network. “We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars into the UAE for charging, service and support infrastructures,” said Musk, who is also founder and CEO of space technology manufacturer SpaceX, as well as the inventor of Hyperloop One technology, a rapid transport system that promises to link the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with a travel time of 12 minutes

Twenty-six destination chargers have already been established in hotels and shopping malls across Dubai and Abu Dhabi (where Tesla will launch a store and service centre next year) that will allow drivers to charge their vehicles in a matter of hours while they dine or shop. Two ‘Supercharger’ locations, providing up to 120 kilowatts of power to replenish a half charge in about 30 minutes, have also opened at The Last Exit in Dubai’s Jebel Ali and in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City.

Five more supercharger locations and 50 more destination charger locations are expected to open by the end of the year, with plans to roll them out into Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.