Electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia: Charging ahead the greener way

Written by
24 Apr 2024
Electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia: Charging ahead the greener way

By 2030, Saudi Arabia could see more electric vehicles traversing its roads. This not-so-distant future is being fueled by the country’s desire to produce around half a million electric vehicles (EVs) by the said year. 

Ambitious as it may seem, it reflects the country’s commitment to economic diversification — comprehensively tackled in the landmark Saudi Vision 2030. As it breaks free from its long-standing reliance on oil, the country is gearing up its efforts in the automotive space, among many other industries. 

The state of electric vehicles in Saudi Arabia 

Saudi Arabia still has a long way to go. For context, the capital city of Riyadh has a specific target of raising EVs’ share to 30 percent by 2030. This means that EVs in the city should hit the 1 million mark, given that the number of vehicles in Riyadh could exceed three million in six years’ time. 

To date, only a few hundred EVs (comprising fully electric and hybrid plug-in models) are registered in the country. Moreover, the lone auto factory in the country has so far assembled only 800 vehicles. Owned by Lucid Group, one of the top makers of electric vehicles in the US, the plant went operational in September last year. 

While much is yet to be done, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud is firm on becoming an EV powerhouse. When Ceer, the country’s first EV brand and original equipment manufacturer (OEM), was launched in 2022, he said that “Saudi Arabia is not just building a new automotive brand.” 

“We are igniting a new industry and an ecosystem that attracts international and local investments, creates job opportunities for local talents, enables the private sector, and contributes to increasing Saudi Arabia’s GDP over the next decade,” he remarked. 

Pivotal players 

Ceer and Lucid are two key players in advancing Saudi Arabia’s plans for its electric vehicles market.  

The aforementioned Lucid plant in Saudi Arabia serves as the company’s first international facility. It’s also its second Advanced Manufacturing Plant (AMP-2). In this hub, the group aims to produce groundbreaking EVs — not just for local but also for global consumption, as Lucid includes exports in its plans. The initial phase involves reassembling” “kits” of the Lucid Air vehicle that are pre-produced at the company’s facility in the US. 

“As Saudi charges toward its Vision 2030, our facility will pave the way for the country’s electric automotive industry and the expansion of the supply chain,” said Peter Rawlinson, CEO and CTO of Lucid Group, in a statement.  

“With the support of the Saudi Government, we are proud to drive local talent development in the technology industry. We look forward to delivering Saudi-assembled cars to customers in Saudi Arabia and beyond,” Rawlinson added. 

Meanwhile, Ceer, as the first EV brand in Saudi Arabia, is expected to attract over $150 million of foreign direct investment. It could also generate up to 30,000 direct and indirect jobs. And by 2034, it could contribute around $8 billion to the country’s GDP. 

Ceer has also been forging partnerships with other prominent institutions. For instance, in October last year, it announced its partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Together, they aim to “research, develop and innovate for breakthroughs in smart mobility.” Their focus areas include connectivity and autonomous driving. 

In a statement, KAUST President Dr. Tony Chan said, “Our strategy is built on our ambition to contribute to both Saudi Vision 2030 and the country’s research, development, and innovation priorities.” 

“We want to transform groundbreaking research in smart mobility into concepts that can be used by the electric vehicle industry and in Ceer’s own EVs. By joining with Ceer, we can co-develop new ideas and applications that will help reduce emissions, make our vehicles safer and smarter, and ultimately help diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy,” he elaborated. 

Earlier in March, Ceer also revealed that it had already awarded a $1.3 billion contract to Saudi company Modern Building Leaders (MBL) to build its Ceer Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Complex in King Abdullah Economic City. 

According to the company, the facility will have dedicated zones for various vehicle production stages, logistics, waste management, a water treatment system, and a vehicle test track. 

Saudi Arabia’s potential 

Mohamed Fawzi, Electromin’s Volvo and Future Mobility General Manager, underscores how Saudi Arabia is well-positioned to lead the EV market in the region. And one major reason is urbanization. 

“According to the United Nations, the urban population in Saudi Arabia is expected to reach 44 million by 2050, up from 23 million in 2020. Over 80% of Saudi Arabia's population is concentrated in urban areas, highlighting the growing demand for efficient and sustainable transportation solutions,” he shared on LinkedIn.  

Additionally, the country has been seeing more charging stations mounted.  

“In Saudi Arabia, the government has invested heavily in building out the country's charging infrastructure, with plans to install thousands of charging stations across the country. This will make it easier for drivers to recharge their cars and reduce range anxiety,” he stated.  

Electromin, a leading EV service provider in the country, plans to install 100 charging stations in two phases. Meanwhile, the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Company (EVIQ) — a joint venture between the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) — eyes building more than 5,000 chargers across more than 1,000 stations by 2030. 

Earlier in January, it launched its inaugural electric vehicle fast-charging site. Situated in ROSHN Front in Riyadh, the site has two chargers with a combined output power of over 200 kilowatts.  

“The opening of our first site at ROSHN Front means that the public has access to the most advanced electric vehicle charging technology. These fast chargers will revolutionize public EV charging, allowing EV drivers to top up their vehicles in a short period of time,” said Mohammad Bakr Gazzaz, CEO of EVIQ. 

Beyond electric vehicles 

From this year to 2030, Saudi Arabia is expected to hit more milestones in its EV journey. However, its goal of charging toward the future in a greener way goes beyond just amplifying its EV efforts. 

For example, Saudi Aramco, a state-owned oil company, is keen to explore hydrogen-powered vehicles. In December 2021, it teamed up with French technology company Gaussin to examine the possibility of producing such vehicles in the country.  

Additionally, it commissioned LAB57, its own innovation center, to study fuel cell technology. Fuel cell vehicles offer an alternative path for reducing carbon emissions and are particularly suited for heavy-duty and long-range applications.  

All of these endeavors highlight Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive approach to sustainable transportation — from electric vehicles and beyond. 

 

 

 

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