Dubai: A Japanese automaker is testing hydrogen cars on UAE roads and a fuel station has been unveiled to generate public interest for zero-emission vehicles.
Al Futtaim Motors, the country’s Toyota dealership, unveiled the first hydrogen refilling station in the region on Wednesday to promote this breed of green vehicles to be introduced in the UAE in the future.
This is the future of sustainable mobility, Al Futtaim Motors said, although it could still take “several years” before it can become a reality for commuters in the UAE.
Located in its Al Badia showroom, the hydrogen station was inaugurated in partnership with France’s Air Liquide. The initiative is in line with the UAE Vision 2021, aimed to raise the country’s contribution to the world’s clean energy drive and reduce dependence on fossil fuel, said officials.
The hydrogen station will be used by Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). These cars run on hydrogen — the universe’s most abundant element — and they generate no carbon emissions and emit only water and heat.
They are also quick to refuel — usually within a matter of minutes — and have a range of 500km on a single refuelling. That means driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back twice on a single refuel.
The refuelling station is being used by Toyota for its pilot three Toyota Mirai vehicles currently being tested on UAE roads. The Toyota Mirai is not yet commercially available in the UAE.
Saud Abbasi, managing director of Toyota at Al Futtaim Motors, said Toyota will soon expand to involve a larger fleet that will be tested by key stakeholders in the country.
“We are now going to reach out to our government and corporate customers. We are going to actually place more vehicles in the market here. So you will start seeing that coming out. This is now the next phase. We’ll be signing contracts to have these vehicles out in the market and then that will become long-term tests,” Abbasi said.
The move is similar to when Toyota first introduced its Camry Hybrid cars in the UAE nine years ago. Toyota started with 10 Camry Hybrid units to be tested as taxis by the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai.
There are now 1,200 Camry Hybrid cars running on UAE roads.
Matthew Clark, general manager, Sales Operations at Al Futtaim Motors, said any new technology takes years for consumers to learn about, to understand, and accept. They are taking it in phases to build awareness and, at the same time, engage with the government on how to put hydrogen-powered cars on UAE roads and build infrastructure to support it in the long run.
Without giving a specific timeline, Clark said the UAE would need around 10 to 12 hydrogen refuelling stations.
In terms of cost, data vary, officials said. In Europe where fuel is taxed, the cost of hydrogen fuel is comparable with petrol and fossil fuels. Comparatively, it is more expensive in the UAE than regular petrol for now because petrol here is relatively cheap and there is no demand for hydrogen-powered cars yet.
But this could also change in time as more demand is created and more infrastructure is put in place, similar to the growth of the solar industry.