'Range anxiety', rushing to malls to charge cars: EV owners in UAE list challenges

Car owners are worried about finding charging stations and then having to wait through a long session


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 9:40 PM

Many electric vehicle users in the UAE are sharing their challenges, particularly concerning ‘range anxiety’. Those residing in apartments mention the necessity to frequent malls to charge their EVs.

Residents in the UAE are used to jumping in their cars and going to other emirates, especially when the temperatures drop, without worrying about finding a gas station for a quick fill-up when needed.

However, speaking to Khaleej Times, some electric car owners worried about how far they can travel in their EV before having to find a charging station and then having to wait through a long charging session.

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Calculate your kilometres before travel

Tahani Abdo Ahmed Alqadiri, a UAE national who lives in Abu Dhabi who often travels to her parents' place in Al Ain, narrated an incident when she had to remain confined because she was worried her Tesla would run out of charge.

Tahani Abdo Ahmed Alqadiri
Tahani Abdo Ahmed Alqadiri

She said, “I keep going to Al Ain now and then. When I drive to Al Ain, it is almost impossible for me to go by Tesla. Once, when I went to my parents’ house I realised after calculating the kilometres that I could not move from there to anywhere else as I needed to come back to my house in Abu Dhabi. So that day I had to use my relative’s car to move around within Al Ain.”

She explains Al Ain City has only one fast charger available, and the petrol station in the area does not offer a certified charging option.

“If I only need to travel from Abu Dhabi to Al Ain and then return, the journey will be seamless, taking me back and forth without any issues. But if I wish to roam around and stay for two days in Al Ain, it will end up becoming difficult. When I connect the portable charger that comes with the car, the rate at which it charges is very slow. One cannot rely on it at all. It will take up to 15-16 hours to fully charge the battery,” she added.

She highlights that the only option is to set up a charging station in her parents’ residence in Al Ain, similar to what she has already done in her villa in Abu Dhabi.

“But that is very expensive and it’s not a practical option, to be honest. It cost me around Dh400,000 when I did the same in my house in Abu Dhabi. Now I have started taking a regular car to their place,” said the Emirati who is the Director, Emiratization and Academics, at Burjeel Holdings.

However, she strongly advocates for electric vehicles due to their considerable advantages.

“They are highly beneficial and cost-effective, only requiring careful planning for daily commuting between work and home, as they may not be suitable for long-distance travel. Within a range of 100km, electric vehicles prove to be both economical and environment-friendly. The Tesla in particular stands out as a remarkably intelligent car,” added Tahani.

Meanwhile, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), which is steering the emirate’s clean energy transition, aims to grow the city’s network of public charging stations by 170 per cent in less than three years.

By 2025, the number EV Green Charging Stations in Dubai will increase from the current 370, with more than 680 charging points, to 1,000.

Living in an apartment

Similarly, Dubai resident Shilpa Akula, who bought a Tesla Model Y six months ago, explained that while a Tesla is undoubtedly environment-friendly, it poses a different set of challenges, especially for people living in apartments.

Shilpa Akula
Shilpa Akula

“In a villa you can install your own charger, but if you are living in an apartment, you might not have individual meters. The Greens has two stations for the whole of Greens and Views, which is a sizeable community. These are public charging stations. But they are mostly occupied whenever I go to charge my vehicle.”

Shilpa typically charges her vehicle during the night, as it takes approximately four to five hours to charge her vehicle using a regular charger.

Dubai has green parking spaces that provide these services in collaboration with Dewa. The payment process can be either through Dewa billing or through community developments such as Emaar, which is what Shilpa does.

“With the Dewa stations, payment is per use and can be done through the Dewa app. But in the community ones, the payment structure has not been worked out yet. We pay for the access card but not for the usage per se. Since I am a Greens resident, Emaar gives me a separate access card for the charger. I need to pay Emaar for that card. If my car is fully charged it can cover up to 400km.” she added.

Going to malls to use superchargers

When Shilpa is in a rush and her car is low on battery, she goes looking for superchargers that are available in places like the Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates (MOE), or Habtoor City, among a few others.

“I go to the MoE one as it's closest to me. Charging up to approximately 80 per cent requires around half an hour. During this time, I usually remain in the car.” She stressed that waiting is inevitable at these superchargers, "especially, at shopping malls where taxis also use these facilities. Securing a slot is not assured, and [it] adds to the overall time,” said the Indian expat. “So, ‘charge anxiety’ always exists.”

Shilpa recalled a time when this process delayed her return home. “After finishing work I had to go to the nearest charging station. But I had to wait for half an hour for my turn to come then charge the car for another half an hour, and then I returned from work. I came back home quite late that night,” she added.

What do non-Tesla EV drivers do?

UAE national Huda Al Hashmi who owns a Volkswagen ID.4 EV sheds light on the issues that she is facing with charging her car.

She said, “For Tesla it’s much easier to find a charger in the UAE as charging stations are available widely across malls. I don’t own a Tesla and my car is much cheaper than a Tesla. It’s a little more difficult for me to charge my car. I cannot use Tesla chargers or superchargers that are available. However, I did get a charging port installed in my villa. But my car is really good and I don’t have to pay as much for the fuel anymore.”


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