An electric car made in Lebanon made its debut on Saturday, the first time the Mediterranean country has made a car despite having struggled with frequent power outages during a severe economic crisis.
The red sports car with the name “Quds Rise” under the Arabic name Jerusalem is the project of the Lebanon-born Palestinian businessman Jihad Mohammad. It is the “first car to be manufactured locally,” Mohammad told reporters during the unveiling in a parking lot south of Beirut. It was built “from start to finish” in Lebanon, he said of the prototype, which is decorated on the front with a gold logo of the Dome of the Rock, the shrine in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest place. The car is said to cost $ 30,000.
Production of up to 10,000 vehicles is slated to begin in Lebanon this year. Cars should hit the market in a year, said Mohammad, director of Lebanese company EV Electra.
Mohammad, 50, said he founded the company four years ago after years abroad and employed Lebanese and Palestinian engineers among 300 people. His long-term goal is to compete in the international market for hybrid and electric cars and to make sales in Lebanon.
The reveal, however, comes as Lebanon struggles amid its worst economic crisis in decades and imported car sales are at record lows, partly due to capital controls and drastic black market devaluation.
“A step in the right direction”?
Dealers only sold 62 new cars in the first two months of 2021, almost 97 percent fewer than in the same period last year, according to figures published by the Association of Automobile Importers in Lebanon.
The economic crisis since the end of 2019 has plunged more than half of the population into poverty. But Mohammad said potential Lebanese buyers would be offered the option of paying half of the new electric car in dollars, the rest in Lebanese pounds, at an exchange rate better than the black market, and paying without interest over five years.
Lebanon also relies on fossil fuels to generate electricity, which is already insufficient for a population of around six million people who suffer blackouts every day. To power its new electric cars, the company plans to set up around 100 charging stations across the country that are connected to generators. These could then be generated by solar and wind power, said Mohammad.
Independent energy analyst Jessica Obeid welcomed the innovation, but said the vehicles would only be green if the energy sector was seriously reformed. “The energy sector is the largest contributor to Lebanon’s greenhouse gas emissions,” she told AFP.
But she added, “If the electric vehicles have solar charging stations, this would be a step in the right direction.”