Can the UAE fall in love with mini EVs?

The UAE community has embraced electric vehicles. Glance left or right as you drive down the highways and byways, and you’ll notice an increasing number of Teslas, Polestars and more on the roads. As previously reported in an Al-Futtaim-commissioned YouGov survey, the interest continues to grow as consumers aim to pivot their daily drive to an EV by 2025.

Regardless of the brand, there’s a consistent theme with each vehicle: the size. You rarely see an EV smaller than a saloon. It’s unsurprising given that the most popular cars in the UAE are land yachts, such as the Mercedes AMG G63 and Toyota Landcruiser. Residents lean towards these behemoths whether they have large families or not. It’s a phenomenon that shows no signs of stopping and will likely continue with EV choices. We’ve already noticed more GMC Hummer EVs barrelling down the streets recently. 

But what about the likes of compact city cars such as the Fiat 500e or Honda E? In the land of the giants, does the smaller car have a chance at success? Dubai resident and entrepreneur Jon Ivan-Duke has his doubts. “To be honest, if I’m driving along Sheikh Zayed Road in a small EV and a big Nissan Patrol comes up behind me on a mission, I’m not sure I’d feel particularly safe,” he confirms.

This is a fair point with gas-powered smaller cars, but it’s still valid for a place where larger vehicles rule the road. Jon adds, “They look more practical for nipping through the streets of Rome than ploughing through multi-lane highways. I could be convinced to get one for shorter journeys, but again, the size would make school runs tricky.”

It seems unlikely that tiny cars like the Fiat Topolino will be that popular in this country. However attractive their ads.

For PR consultant Reem Maroun, picking an EV – no matter the size – comes with one major issue that held her back. “We did consider one, but there needs to be a reduction in the wait times for EVs in the UAE. It’s one of the reasons why we didn’t switch when we were in the market for a new car recently.” Reem continues, “It was 10-12 months for an EV versus 2-3 months for a standard vehicle, and that’s too long to wait for an upgrade.”

This was a recurring theme amongst everyone we spoke to regarding smaller EVs. That time scale is the same period you’d have to wait for a bespoke Ferrari or Aston Martin. Even the UAE’s best-selling EV brands have extended wait times between down payment and delivery to the customer. With these relatively new brands entering the market, there are no guarantees of mass production from the off, so excitement is tempered slightly. There will no doubt be a shifting of sands that will reduce the time you have to wait in the future, but new cars such as these smaller EVs are an obvious concern.

Most cars on Dubai’s highways are large.

It’s not all doom and gloom, mind. Trainee dentist Ahmad Dohair sees a smaller EV as his very first car purchase in the future. “Personally, when considering a small EV, factors like city-friendly size and lower maintenance come into play,” Ahmad tells us. “Cost-effectiveness and ease of commuting make them a compelling choice, and there’s also more chance of finding a parking spot in a small EV!”

Mini EVs are certainly a hard sell to UAE residents at present. There’s space for them in the market, and we can definitely envision a future where these petit motors are zipping around the Emirates more. They’re an ideal option for a second, more economical vehicle for a family or even as a first car for new, environmentally conscious drivers. However, in a country where instant gratification and oversized vehicles are paramount, the little cars already have a mammoth task to convince the masses.

A small electric car like the Honda E could bring many cost advantages.

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17 Jan, 2024