More than 200 hybrid taxis will be on Dubai's roads by the end of the year, the Roads and Transport Authority said, and the number is set to grow because of cost savings, improved fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance.
Even before the Government announced plans last week to scrap fuel regulation, cab companies had decided to add to their hybrid fleets.
Cars Taxi last month acquired 55 more hybrids, taking its fleet to 100, while the Dubai Taxi Corporation has 69 and will add 30 by December.
Concern about rising fuel costs may prompt public transport authorities to purchase more hybrids over the long-term, experts said.
"I don't think there will be a major shift in purchase in the short-term, but it will become a strong factor,” said Eyad Trabulsi, senior consultant operations with Burj Park management company.
"It's a good idea because of cost saving and the amount of time taxis spend in traffic.”
There are 177 hybrid taxis in Dubai, said Ahmad Al Suwaidi, chief executive of the RTA's Dubai Taxi Corporation, the emirate's largest taxi operator.
"A hybrid vehicle performs at its optimum in heavily congested traffic,” he said.
"This is because at slower speed only the electric motor propels the vehicle.” The fuel cost saving was about 29 to 31 per cent per taxi per year and fuel efficiency also improved by about 30 per cent, as per RTA figures.
"The advantages are better fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions,” he said. "The braking system of a hybrid requires less maintenance, resulting in less wear and tear.”
Al-Futtaim Motors, distributor of Toyota in the UAE, said it was in discussions with several fleet operators.
"In addition to the 55 hybrid Camry for Cars Taxi, we have had orders from other fleet operators,” said Jon Williams, managing director of Al-Futtaim.
"We are also in the final stages of discussion with new taxi companies which will see this figure increase.”
Hybrids do not require charging stations like plug-in vehicles. Instead, the Toyota hybrids are a combination of an electric motor and a combustion engine.
Sales growth could pick up as awareness spreads.
"One of the key drivers is the low total cost of ownership, which translates into lower maintenance costs, less wear and tear and, of course, less fuel consumption,” Mr Williams said.
More hybrid taxis could also mean calmer roads, Mr Trabulsi said.
"Apart from the environmental and cost benefit, there is a social benefit, because hybrid vehicles are not as powerful as regular ones when you accelerate. So from a commuter's perspective, it will be a good check for aggressive taxi drivers.”
Source: The National