Andri Ottesen
Assistant Professor of Management at the Australian University in Kuwait
Dr. Andri Ottesen worked as Director of Operation for the synthetic fuel company Carbon Recycling International. Currently, he is Assistant Professor in the field of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Australian University. He is furthermore the Principle Investigator on a Project that is managed by the Middle East Center of LSE (MEC) called. “Breaking the Internal Combustion Engine Reign: A Mixed-Methods Study of Attitudes Towards Using and Purchasing Electric Vehicles in Kuwait.”


As established in a prior Meridian article, Kuwait has one of the lowest Electric Vehicle (EV) adaptation rates in the world, especially compared to Northern Europe in which some countries have more than a thousand times more EVs per capita. A research team managed by the Middle East Center of LSE (MEC) and funded by the Kuwait Foundation for Scientific Advancement (KFAS) conducted research to find out why the EV adaptation was so low. One of the outcomes of the study, which included deep interviews with all car dealers who sold either EVs or hybrid plug-in EVs, 12 owners of EVs in Kuwait, and a survey of 600 Kuwaiti drivers, revealed 10 reasons for low adoptions of EVs in Kuwait as of the end of 2022.

The number one reason was the absence of fast-charging and powerful EV public charging stations that rely on Direct Current (DC to DC) and could charge the most popular large-battery EVs in Kuwait to an 80% charge in about 20 min (300MW/800V). The second reason had to do with the reluctance of Kuwaiti landlords (as ex-pats are not permitted to own real estate in Kuwait) to allow expat-owners of EVs to install fast-charging 11 kW EV amplifier wall-boxes in or around their rented apartments, which could reduce the charging-time from up to 48 h for the biggest batteries down to only 5–10 h. The third reason was that savings from using electricity was simply too small. The State of Kuwait subsidizes petrol for its residents and, as a result, has one of the world’s lowest retail gasoline prices (at GBP 0.3 per liter). In comparison, one liter of retail petrol costs about 6 times more in UK. Electricity is also subsidized, with residential prices being around GBP 0.03 per kWh. This would mean that the usual fuel bill for full size sedans would come to about 65 GBP vs.15 GPD for electricity or about 50 GPB in savings per month, which is considered by many to be too small for a mass transition, given the limitation associated with charging facilities.

The fourth reason for low adoption was higher purchasing cost, but most countries levy high value added taxes as well as tariffs that are omitted for EVs. In absence of such taxes in Kuwait, EVs tend to be at least 20% more expensive, which reflects the extra cost of making the battery. The fifth reason was a lack of EV community due to low exposure. The most popular EVs in 2022 were the Porsche Taycan, full option purchased at about 190,000 GBP by predominantly men in their 50s and 60s. They bought these EVs because of the gearless powertrain that provided acceleration 0-100km in just over 2 sec. We labelled this group as “Techies” or early-adaptors, and concluded the EVs have not yet reached the main customer market. Range anxieties or fear that their EV would not be able to reach intended destination was reason number six. Here both a lack of charging stations as well as fear that the battery might shut down in the extreme heat as Kuwaitis frequently see their cell phones doing, played a part.

Reason number seven was fear about the lifetime of the battery. Dealerships only give 8 years warranty or 150,000 km, compared to an average lifetime of 13 years for Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars. That is a difference of 5 years assuming the worst-case scenario that the battery does not live longer than its warranty and will not be deemed worthy to replace for such an old car. Kuwaitis are generally risk-adverse consumers and frequently want to know the estimated reselling value before they purchase. Lack of aftermarket and lack of long-term experience of EV battery in extreme heat conditions does not give them comfort. Reason number eight is a bit peculiar: EVs only have 20 moving parts vs over 2000 in ICE cars. As a result, there is almost no maintenance on EVs. With no maintenance, dealerships loose income and will be reluctant to build up facility and expertise to service EVs that need little to no service, which is needed in case of mishaps or accidents. Reason nine was high speed bumps in residential areas, which were built to keep out low-riding power cars, but are now a problem for EVs as they might damage the undercarriage where the battery is stored. Reason ten was a complaint from the owners of EVs as they frequently experienced ICE cars parked in designated EV parking spaces without penalty.

Our research did not indicate that the current or perspective owners perceived safety of EVs to be a problem. EVs were generally viewed as safer than ICE cars. This notion corresponds to American safety data from 2021, which states that EVs are about 60 times less likely to catch fire than a combustion engine car or, as Elon Musk worded it, “What part of combustion in an Internal combustion engine do you not understand?”

Finally, our interviewees were largely aware that, due to a 3-fold higher efficiency of EV engines over ICE, when it comes to the transformation of the energy from the tank/battery to the wheels, EVs are still significantly environmentally friendlier than ICE vehicles, even though electricity is made using natural gas in Kuwait and more carbon dioxide is emitted in the construction of an EV due to the size of its battery.

Experience from other countries clearly indicates that mass adoption of EVs is a viable option for lowering greenhouse gas emissions and is a worthwhile tool for the State of Kuwait to meet its national and international commitments to lowering such emissions. Additional benefits derived from mass EV adoption potentially include improved air quality as EVs are emission-free and reduced sound pollution as EV engines are also soundless.