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Mon 13 Jul 2009 03:55 PM

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Will electric cars be a hit in Abu Dhabi?

Aabar chairman says Tesla electric cars to hit the streets in a matter of days after firm buys 4% stake from Daimler.

Electric cars will soon compete with gas-guzzling SUVs on Abu Dhabi streets as the oil-exporting emirate buys into alternative energy, including, on Monday, a stake in electric-car start-up Tesla Motors Inc.

Aabar chairman Khadem Al Qubaisi, who led the purchase of a 4 percent Tesla share from Daimler AG, said the stake was one of several more planned as the world's third-largest oil exporter spends big on non-oil-related energy technology.

"It's a small percent but the issue is more psychological," Qubaisi told Reuters in an interview.

Abu Dhabi has pushed hard to establish itself as a leader in renewable and clean technologies, and includes its $22 billion effort to build the carbon-neutral, solar-powered Masdar City for 50,000 residents in the desert.

Last month, the UAE was named home to the 135-nation International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) after intensive lobbying.

California-based Tesla is one of the biggest players in the burgeoning electric car sector, while Aabar is viewed as a spearhead investor for the emirate of Abu Dhabi to diversify away from the energy sector.

Qubaisi said he expected the ultra-sleek Tesla cars to hit the streets of Abu Dhabi in a matter of days, where they will compete with fleets of lumbering sport-utility vehicles, the automobile of choice for many Emiratis.

Tesla says its carbon-fibre bodied Roadster, priced starting at $101,500, can reach 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds and costs pennies per mile to operate.

"It's very nice, the acceleration. There's lots of power," Qubaisi said.

In March, Aabar bought a 9.1 percent stake in Daimler, saying then it would pursue joint strategic projects. In May, Daimler acquired an equity interest of just under 10 percent in Tesla for around $50 million.

Qubaisi said Aabar planned more joint ventures of a similar nature with Daimler.

"There are a lot of things that we are discussing together and we are trying to finalise a deal," he said.

"It's too early to speak about the companies -- in the next few months," he said. "We closed this deal with Daimler because I think this would benefit Daimler a lot."

Aabar is an investment company controlled by the International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC), which is wholly owned by the government of the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

IPIC is one of the investment vehicles used by the Abu Dhabi government to invest oil income. Abu Dhabi pumps most of the oil produced by the United Arab Emirates, the world's third-largest oil exporter.

The venture presents no small paradox. The UAE and its Gulf oil-exporting neighbours are among the highest per capita carbon dioxide emitters in the world, according to statistics from the United Nations Development Programme.

The UAE is third on the list, after Qatar and Kuwait. The UAE is also pursuing a $40 billion nuclear programme that would see it build a number of reactors to meet its growing needs.

Aabar shares were down 2.25 percent after the statement. Daimler was up 2.84 percent. (Reuters)

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The Don 11 years ago

If it happen then Abu Dhabi would be the first oil producer in the region who is venturing into alternative energy propelled cars. That is a brave move to venture into a project that would result in shrinking down your customer bass.

ametis 11 years ago

When i read the headline, I thought what a great move, than I read that they are buying 4% in a company than needs truck load of batteries to run...

Engineer 11 years ago

This headline of "electric cars to hit the streets in days" has been repeated a lot in the news in the last few days.. Where are the details? Will Aabar be putting these cars on the road as showcases, or do they mean consumers will be buying them this week? Tesla also manufactures only a few models, focused mainly on its roadster. How will this replace the "lumbering 4x4" considering the lack of passenger & cargo space in the roadster? Has Aabar already built the charging stations where these electric cars have to be charged (like fuel stations) considering these cars will be on the roadd "within a few days"? What are the implications of using electric cars which have limited distance range (usually only a few hundred kilometres) in a country where drivers often traverse long distances in their daily commute. I drive 200km a day and yet I would consider that to be failry average here. Arabian Business - could you not address some of these obvious questions to Aabar so that we get a meaningful article about a special new venture instead of printing what reads a lot like a PR release?

Marcellus Kelley 8 years ago

Does the sun shine!?