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Is the UAE ready for electric cars?

The UAE isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find an electric car, what with fuel prices being ridiculously low and residents’ penchant for giant SUVs and powerful sports cars. In fact, Chevrolet has yet to market its extended-range electric Volt out here, and Toyota still hasn’t taken a chance on its hybrid Prius. You can order a hybrid BMW, but the company doesn’t stock them here and has sold 50 across the Middle East since 2010. Only Porsche offers its hybrid Cayanne and Panamera, but you can count those yearly sales on your fingers and toes. For myriad reasons, no car company has been willing to take a serious chance on selling a hybrid or electric car in this region – until now, that is. But then again, the Fisker Karma isn’t your usual electric car.

The Fisker Karma isn’t your average electric car. But it shouldn’t be, considering it was created by Henrik Fisker, who also designed the Aston Martin V8 Vantage and the BMW Z8. Courtesy of Fisker Automotive
■ Bored with hybrid cars? Let the Fisker Karma sweep you off your feet
■ Leonardo di Caprio takes delivery of the new Fisker Karma


Motoring people

And Henrik Fisker, the founder of the company, isn’t your usual auto executive. He can’t be. Since he started Fisker Automotive in 2007 with Bernhard Koehler, it’s been a constant struggle for him to find financing for his extended-range electric Karma saloon, and much of his job is drumming up investors. The company already sells its cars in North America and Europe and now it has announced it will be selling them in six locations across the Middle East through Al-Futtaim Enterprises, the exclusive dealer here. Those locations will include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and the Levant; the Dubai showroom, located in Festival City, will be the first to officially open, on October 24. Fisker Automotive also announced it will be making inroads into China with other partners.

At the Paris Motor Show last week, two Fisker Karmas sit on the company’s small stand, tucked away across from the Subaru space that has four of its cars on display. Fisker, the executive chairman, and Koehler, the chief operating officer, sit in a small office in a corner of the stand to talk about the new moves and the Karma. Fisker, dressed immaculately in a blue suit with no tie, his blond hair perfectly combed, is a natural talker, a real salesman, obviously passionate about promoting his company and his car.

“I remember I was in Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit, back in 2009 or 2010,” he recounts. “I remember talking to a young, wealthy Emirati and he wanted to order a Karma. And I asked him straight out, ‘Why would you want to buy an electric car here?’ And he said that it’s not like they didn’t want to drive environmentally friendly cars, but he thought the car was beautiful. He also liked that he could drive the car emissions-free in the city but he could still drive to Dubai with no worries. So that really sparked an interest with me.”

The Karma isn’t built like a Toyota Prius; it’s a series hybrid, meaning the wheels are powered only by two electric motors, fed by a battery. But an on-board, petrol-powered engine that generates electricity means that, before the battery runs flat, the generator fires up to produce electricity, meaning there’s no worry of being stranded with a dead battery and having to wait hours for it to charge at a plug. Only the Chevrolet Volt works in a similar way. The Prius and other hybrids have their wheels driven by both the electric motors and the petrol engine.

But the appeal of the car isn’t just technical. Fisker himself is a former car designer with BMW and Aston Martin, and the Karma’s luxury and style were just as important to him as the powertrain.


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