COVER STORY

Moving towards a new future in vehicular green technology

H.E. Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah, explains how the company is leading the movement for sustainable transportation in the UAE.

H.E.-Khaled-Al-HuraimelThe UAE is one of the largest automotive markets in the Middle East, second only to Saudi Arabia. Commercial vehicles account for around 20% of this market. Given the country’s rapid economic development, new projects like Expo 2020, and evolving trends in industries such as construction, tourism and logistics, these numbers are set to rise. According to TechSci Research’s report, “UAE Commercial Vehicles Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2021,” the UAE’s commercial vehicle market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 7% between 2016 and 2021.

The Case for Sustainable Mobility

With this growth, sustainable mobility will become a primary environmental challenge. Of global greenhouse emissions, 26% is constituted by transportation, with almost 90% of vehicles relying on oil to run. In the UAE’s second Greenhouse Gas inventory, the Ministry of Energy recognised transportation as the third largest contributor to the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for over 15% of total emissions in 2014. By investing in sustainable transportation, the UAE is going to great lengths to ensure a more eco-friendly future and to adhere to its commitment to the Paris Agreement. While many companies within the nation are supporting this vision for the future, few exemplify it to the extent taken by Bee’ah, says the award-winning environmental management company.

“As the UAE edges closer to the ambitions put forward under the National Agenda 2021, sustainable transportation is a topic that is rapidly gaining traction in the public sphere. To ensure economic leadership and to complete the transition to a green economy, green technology and sustainable logistics are of paramount importance. The usage of vehicles that run on non-renewable sources is resulting in rising emission levels, oil consumption and air pollution. Being an integrated environmental management company that is leading in its industry, it is important for Bee’ah to showcase our values in the way we conduct our business. Our commitment is evident in that we were one of the first companies in the Middle East to include electric vehicles within our fleet, and we continue to be one of the strongest advocates for the adoption of green vehicles in the UAE,” said H.E. Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO of Bee’ah.

Sustainable or green transportation is an alternate mode of transportation that has a low impact on the environment, and depends on renewable or regenerated energy instead of fossil fuels. With the aim of reducing 15% carbon emissions by 2020, the Ministry of Energy launched a new programme called “Incentives for Using Electric Vehicles”, last year. The programme includes bank loans, insurance plans, registration options and attractive pricing which will allow potential buyers to consider the benefits of going green. The Government is also increasing charging stations and creating an infrastructure that supports green vehicles. In addition to free Salik tags and parking spots, such cars are also exempted from the RTA’s registration and vehicle renewal.

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The Tesla Semi- A New Age in Green Transportation

With the government actively incentivising the adoption of green vehicles, there is a rising need for vehicles that can provide state-of-the-art services, in addition to being environmentally friendly. Late last year, Elon Musk announced his company’s entry into the commercial truck market, with a model that is considered to be a breakthrough in modern vehicular green technology. Following its rollout in 2019, the Tesla Semi will be one of the smartest, safest and most efficient trucks on the road, says the company. Capable of travelling 805 kilometres on a single charge, the trucks are guaranteed for 1.6 million kilometres of usable life, while carrying 36,287 kilograms of cargo. Featuring an advanced version of the company’s autopilot function, the Semi has automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning. Due to dynamic torque distribution, the risk of jackknifing is significantly reduced, while its centre of gravity, which is lower than traditional haulers, minimises chances of rollovers, as per the company. The Semis will also possess a platooning feature or ‘convoy mode’, which allows the trucks to use smart technology to stay connected while on the move, in addition to linking their safety systems.

In association with its participation at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018, Bee’ah made the significant announcement that the company has become the first in the region to place an order for the Tesla Semi. Elaborating on the purchase, H.E. Al Huraimel said, “Bee’ah has always been at the forefront of innovation. As one of the most innovative and eco-friendly companies in the world, Tesla’s vision for the world closely aligns with our vision for the UAE. When Tesla announced the launch of the new Semi truck, Bee’ah was one of the first companies to make an order to purchase.

“The unique features of the Semi make it the perfect addition to our fleet; and as Bee’ah expands to meet its wider ambition to improve the quality of life in the Middle East, this new acquisition will enable us to meet our goals, while remaining committed to our sustainability mandate. Our order for the trucks is one of the first and the largest in the Middle East. However, as we continue to implement vehicular green technology across our fleet, we will continue to sustain this momentum and this order constitutes the preliminary phase in our wide-scale plan for optimising the operations of our fleet.”

The purchase of the trucks is not the first of Bee’ah’s association with Tesla. Pursuing its ambition for a sustainable future, the company is currently building its iconic new headquarters. Conceptualised by Zaha Hadid Architects, the project is a triumph in sustainable architecture, with its ultra-low carbon footprint, usage of natural heating and lighting systems, and incorporation of recovered materials, says Bee’ah. Perhaps the most impressive feature is that of its zero net energy consumption. Completely reliant on solar energy, the headquarters will utilise Tesla’s advanced Powerpack battery technology to store energy obtained using photovoltaic cells. Bee’ah says it has purchased nine storage packs with a total capacity of 1,890 kWhs, to meet the requirements of the state-of-the-art building. The headquarters is slated for completion by the end of this year, and is expected to receive a platinum certification, under the Leadership in Energy and Efficient Design (LEED) programme, instated by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).

Supporting Green Fleet Through Technology

The Tesla trucks will be a welcome addition to Bee’ah’s eco-fleet, which possesses a wide range of vehicles equipped with advanced technology, says Bee’ah. The company currently has a fleet of over 1000 vehicles, including waste collection trucks, public cleansers, sweepers, washers, leaf collectors and litter pickers. The company has long recognised the benefits of an eco-fleet and has made a growing investment towards electric vehicles since 2015. Prior to this, the company also invested in CNG-powered vehicles and low sulphur diesel to reduce the emissions created as a result of its operations.

In addition to ensuring fuel efficiency through renewable sources, Bee’ah’s fleet also uses features like advanced route optimisation. A GPS-mapped system that tracks the level of waste in Bee’ah’s smart bins, this feature uses real-time information to dispatch vehicles according to demand, through the most optimised routes. Bee’ah introduced route optimisation in 2012. By 2014, the company had reduced truck movements by 20% as compared to 2013, and by 90% as compared to 2010. This has significantly maximised collection efficiency and reduced fuel usage, as well as pollution due to vehicle emissions, says the company.

Air Quality Monitoring for Greater Impact

Apart from its efforts to curb air pollution through the deployment of green vehicles and technology, Bee’ah has also devised and implemented its own Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System in Sharjah. In partnership with the American University of Sharjah, Bee’ah developed a system that uses advanced air quality monitoring equipment to gather and analyse data to produce precise reports on air quality in Sharjah. These reports will enable the emirate to develop appropriate regulatory framework and take necessary action to mitigate pollution levels. Bee’ah has set up six stations in crowded locations including Al Falaj, Al Majaz, Al Rahmania, Industrial Area 3, the American University of Sharjah and Al Batayeh, in addition to a mobile station. As green vehicles replace diesel and oil-run vehicles in the UAE, this system will also enable the company to study the impact of this transition on Sharjah’s air quality levels.

Speaking of the company’s efforts to monitor air quality, H.E. Al Huraimel said, “Given the accelerated industrial growth in the nation, it is important to ensure that our ambitions for economic development do not have a negative impact on our environment. In addition to ensuring sustainable mobility, Bee’ah believes in prioritising resource management, which motivated us to set up an air quality monitoring system in the emirate of Sharjah. The specialists in our environmental consulting team have joined forces with experts from the American University of Sharjah to develop this unique system which is helping Sharjah to attain air quality levels on par with some of the cleanest cities in the world.”

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The Future of Green Vehicles

In keeping with the Green Economy for Sustainable Development initiative, the UAE aims to become a world leader in sustainability and the deployment of green vehicles is critical to achieving this vision. For the mainstream adoption of electric vehicles in the Middle East, especially for commercial purposes, a number of challenges persist. In addition to issues like limitations in the number and distances between charging stations, organisations and individuals remain largely unaware of electric vehicle technology and its wide-ranging benefits. Initial cost of investment also forces people to neglect the long term benefits of this investment and its impact on the environment

Thanks to increasing awareness on environmental issues, changes in customers’ attitudes, automotive innovations, fuel price volatility, and the implementation of green policies by governments, companies are slowly, but surely, rising to meet these challenges and extending their green agenda to the purchase of eco-friendly vehicles. They are using their choices in green transportation to highlight their environmental stewardship and commitment to a sustainable future.

As environmental advocates and early adopters of new technologies, companies like Bee’ah are at the forefront of leading this transition to green vehicles. Apart from optimising its operations, Bee’ah’s decision to use a green fleet is a validation of the company’s claim to become a force for change; and an inspiration to many others who want to be a part of this movement for change

 

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