While New York City is using Ford Escape Hybrids as taxis, that simply wouldn't do in the Middle East. General Motors has delivered ten of its Chevy Tahoe hybrids to the Dubai government for a taxi fleet test. The test program was kicked off by His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai at an event held at the Monarch Hotel in Dubai. The attendees at the event also watched a "documentary" on hybrids that discussed the efforts to reduce emissions and fuel consumption in the UAE (of which Dubai is a part).

The Roads & Transport Authority's (RTA) has also submitted two draft laws that would cut carbon monoxide emissions and prevent the registration of cars more than 20 years old. The limit will drop to 15 years old after 2010. Fortunately Dubai is wealthy enough to be able to get away with something like that. Such a restriction could never be accomplished in North America as there are just way too many older vehicles on the road here. The GM press release is after the jump.



Press Release:

Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Inaugurates Dubai Taxi Trials For 10 Chevrolet Hybrid Vehicles

Al Tayer: General Motors Completes Operation and Maintenance Training of 100 Employees from Dubai Taxi, Dubai Police and Civil Defence

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, last night inaugurated a trial program of 10 Hybrid vehicles. This agreement, the first of its kind in the Middle East, was the result of a directive from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to work on creating a safe, clean, attractive and sustainable environment that lives up to the emirate's standards. This agreement also represents the Roads & Transport Authority's (RTA) commitment to saving lives and properties, conserving the environment and natural resources, improving workplace well-being and public safety, and using the required technologies to limit noise pollution resulting from various modes of transportation.

The inauguration took place at a major ceremony organized by the RTA in collaboration with General Motors at The Monarch Hotel in Dubai in the presence of government officials and senior executives.

His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was greeted by His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA and Mr. Terry Johnsson, President of General Motors - Middle East Operations.

His Highness and the guests watched a documentary film about hybrid vehicles, focusing on the UAE's efforts to conserve the environment and natural resources, and the country's implementation of sustainable development, a concept that constitutes the backbone of humanity's future and leisure. The documentary also addressed the RTA's initiative to operate hybrid vehicles using engines that rely on fuel and electricity, to use the latest available technologies to limit vehicle emissions, to improve the quality of fuel used by public transportation buses, and to meet the highest global standards for emissions in Dubai.

After the screening, His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer gave a speech in which he stressed the RTA's commitment to conserve the environment and uphold public safety through striking a balance between road systems and networks on the one hand, and land and maritime public transportation on the other, in addition to making the latter a preferred mode of transportation, and using the latest technologies to limit noise pollution resulting from the various modes of transportation.

He also added that the RTA presented the UAE National Transport Authority with two draft laws that have been recently approved by the ministerial service council. The first one addressed lowering vehicle emissions, namely CO, from 4.5% to 2.5%, and lowering the rate of hydrocarbons from 800 parts per million to 300 parts per million. The second prohibits registering or renewing the registration of light vehicles that are more than 20 years old, to be reduced to 15 years old effective January 2010, in addition to prohibiting the import of used light vehicles more than five years old, and heavy vehicles and buses that are more than seven years old.

Moreover, he added that the RTA is drastically renewing its plans for public transportation in the emirate in line with its environmentally friendly approach. He also explained that the RTA was creating a work force dedicated to replace the current fleet of taxis and buses used for public transportation with environment-friendly vehicles by using hybrids that operate on fuel and electricity, and replacing the engines of current 'Abra's' with natural gas-operated engines as a first step in a comprehensive plan to make all vehicles in Dubai environment-friendly. Al Tayer also pointed out that the RTA team working on hybrids has focused its efforts on accomplishing four main goals; implementing available technologies to limit emissions, improving fuel quality used in buses and public transportation, and implementing world class emission standards in Dubai, leading up to implementing a comprehensive hybrid strategy in Dubai.

H.E. Al Tayer also pointed out that the RTA and General Motors will start operational trials for one year with ten Chevrolet vehicles - five Malibus and five Tahoes - that operate on fuel and electricity. The trial period will provide ample time to judge the hybrid batteries' performance in the harsh weather conditions in the Middle East, setting an expectation for the batteries' lifespan in such conditions, in addition to measuring fuel savings, operational costs, and the expected reduction in emissions.

He also said that General Motors have completed operational and maintenance training for more than 100 Dubai Taxi, Dubai Police and Civil Defence employees who are now qualified to operate these advanced hybrid vehicles.

Al Tayer reconfirmed the RTA's plans to have a fleet of buses equipped with environment-friendly engines that comply with Euro 4 environmental standards, and equipped with SCR and EGR. He also said that the first batch of vehicles arrived in February 2008, hoping that this step will contribute towards reducing bus emissions, making these public transportation vehicles more environment-friendly.

In his speech, Terry Johnsson, President of General Motors in the Middle East said: "When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, ordered a feasibility study for using alternative propulsion systems to be implemented, the RTA and General Motors acted swiftly. These efforts have culminated in this agreement and the operational trial of these Chevrolet hybrids."

He also mentioned that General Motors has been the leader in automotive technological innovations for the past 100 years, expressing his organisation's pride in partnering with the RTA to bring advanced hybrid vehicles to the Middle East for the first time.

Johnsson added that General Motors is committed to its role as a responsible corporate citizen towards the environment and the communities it operates in, and that it prides itself on sharing the Dubai Government's vision of using clean and environment-friendly vehicles. He then stressed that General Motors is active on a global scale in researching ways to implement its energy diversity strategy through developing various advanced propulsion systems that use different types of fuel to generate cleaner energy.

Johnsson then went on to explain General Motors' energy diversity strategy, which aims to improve fuel efficiency by developing new engine and transmission technologies, utilizing E85 Ethanol, and constantly exploring hybrid, electric and fuel cell technologies.

Johnsson also spoke about GMnext, the logo of General Motors' centennial celebrations through which the manufacturer plans to celebrate by not only looking back at its achievements, but also by looking towards its future visions, a theme that is perfectly embodied by this historic agreement with the RTA.

After the ceremony, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, drove off on a tour of the streets of Dubai in a Chevrolet Tahoe Two-Mode Hybrid, accompanied by His Excellency Mattar Al Tayer and Terry Johnsson, in which he received a live demonstration and explanation of the different operational modes of this low emission vehicle, whose fuel efficiency figures deliver a 50% reduction over its gasoline-powered equivalents. The Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is the first full size SUV to be powered by a hybrid engine.

[Source: General Motors]