By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Thomas Klein, the CEO for Mercedes Benz Cars Middle East, said that it "might take some years" before fully autonomous vehicles are a widespread reality
The Middle East will see a significant increase in the adoption of electric cars despite widespread misconceptions of the technology and a relative lack of infrastructure, according to Thomas Klein, the CEO for Mercedes Benz Cars Middle East.
In an interview with Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Dubai Motor Show, Klein said, “Fundamentally, the future of the automobile as we see it is electric.
“Will that mean that we have no traditional combustion engines? I don’t think so. We’ll see more hybrids, but also more fully electric vehicles coming. Whether or not that will be broadly accepted depends on the policies around it and the infrastructure provided,” he added.
In 2018, Mercedes Benz debuted its first electric vehicle, the EQC. It is the first member of a range of cars that will include 10 new models by 2022.
According to Klein, wider adoption of electric vehicles is still hampered by an incorrect “belief that there is some kind of disadvantage to driving electric cars….I can absolutely [say] that there is not.”
In the case of the EQC, for example, Klein said that the vehicle has a range of 471 km, which is “very similar” to that of comparable petrol vehicles, as well as the same luxury features and driving performance
Many of the misconceptions of electric vehicles, Klein said, likely stem from the limitations of early models.
“Early electric cars had some kind of trade-off, such as smaller trunks because they needed battery space, or a reach below what you’d normally accept,” he said. “[Some] had a 100 km reach. Especially here in the UAE, that is not something that is appealing. It’s less than what I drive to get the kids to school and back every day, and I cannot charge 8 hours in between.”
Klein also expressed optimism of the future of autonomous vehicles, saying that consumers are already using – and becoming accustomed to – various facets of the technology.
“What we see on the street already if semi-autonomous. If you are in a Mercedes Benz at this stage, you have automatic distance control, emergency brake functions and lane keeping assists…..it gets into you. You learn to take advantage of the elements of the autonomous vehicles.”
Mercedes Benz is currently working on a number of projected related to autonomous driving technology, and has developed a number of prototypes such as the Mercedes Benz S-Class S 500 Intelligent Drive.
“The investments required to get fully autonomous drive are much higher than the ones required for electric [vehicles],” Klein said. “I can’t tell you when we’ll see that happening. That might take some years.”