Hummingbird latest EV venture to forge Middle East ties

Hummingbird flocks to Middle East in the latest in a string of moves to electrify the region

Hummingbird latest EV venture to forge Middle East ties
Hummingbird is a California-headquartered electric truck and van maker

California commercial vehicle manufacturer Hummingbird is the latest electric vehicle maker to seal a Middle Eastern tie-up, after the firm announced it will establish a new microfactory in the UAE.

Hummingbird says the facility will produce its zero-emission commercial vehicles, including trucks and vans, which the company aims to sell in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), Southeast Asia, and India. The company has not revealed the factory's expected production capacity or the size of the initial investment.

"The company will initially focus on catering to the region’s growing demand for mid-mile and last-mile vehicle applications, including refrigerated trucks. This news follows the approval of Hummingbird UAE as a registered company in the UAE and the hiring of a local operations team," Hummingbird says.

Regional scramble

Hummingbird follows the likes of US EV pure plays Lucid and Faraday Future, Chinese players such as BYD, Geely, Dongfeng, Nio, Human Horizons, Hozon and, and South Korea's Hyundai in expanding their Middle Eastern horizons. Unlike some of these firms, however, Hummingbird has made no mention of local investment.

Lucid is backed by Saudi sovereign wealth fund the PIF, which owns c.60pc of the automaker and has placed an order for 100,000 Lucid EVs. Lucid recently opened a Saudi Arabian facility where it is rolling out vehicles built via a re-assembly method in the kingdom. There had been some speculation that the PIF could buy out the OEM entirely if it continues to struggle delivering vehicles.

Faraday Future, another EV start-up struggling t reach its targeted scale, is hoping that its ultra-high end performance e-SUV will resonate with a Middle Eastern customer base, after signing strategic cooperation agreements with the UAE's Master Investment Group and Siraj Holding. The company is now aiming to begin operations in the Middle East region in 2024.

Chinese EV maker Nio secured in December a $2.2bn investment from Abu Dhabi investment firm CYVN, its second in less than six months, meaning thew state-backed Emirati firm now owns a 20.1pc stake in Nio.

In October, Chinese premium EV brand Beyonca, backed by Dongfeng and France's Renault, signed a memorandum of understanding with Riyadh-based Al Faisaliah Group to explore the possibility of a "substantial investment" from the Middle Eastern firm into Beyonca. At the same time, the Chinese firm struck a strategic cooperation deal with Sharjah-based QG FZE-LLC to seek other potential Middle Eastern financial backers. regarding investment opportunities in the Middle East, according to the EV brand.

In June, Saudi Arabia's investment ministry agreed a $5.6bn investment into a regional joint venture (JV) with Shanghai-based EV start-up Human Horizons, while the PIF has reportedly been mulling an investment directly into Human Horizons.

In October, Neom, which is developing a futuristic new city in Saudi Arabia, invested $100mn in Chinese autonomous driving start-up The two firms aim to establish a JV to develop, manufacture and deliver AVs, an autonomous driving service, and smart vehicle infrastructure in Neom city and across the Mena region.

Back in March, BYD signed a cooperation deal with leading UAE distributor Al-Futtaim. The largest Chinese EV maker aim to launch four BEV and PHEV models in the UAE, with the Han and Atto 3 BEVs the first offerings.

Smaller peer Hozon Auto struck a similar deal in October with UAE distributor EIH Automotive & Trading to start selling its Neta EVs in the country.

The previous month, Geely's Zeekr brand signed agreements with partners in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain to expand BEV sales into those markets. It will offer the Zeekr 001 shooting-brake and Zeekr X e-SUV in the four countries, starting deliveries in the first quarter of 2024.

And in October, the PIF signed a deal with Hyundai to build a carmaking plant in Saudi Arabia. The PIF will hold a 70pc stake in a new $500mn+ JV — which aims to build 50,00 electric and ICE vehicles annually from 2026 — with Hyundai holding the remaining 30pc.

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"The EV market in the Middle East is expected to witness massive growth in the coming years. It is projected to reach US$7.65bn by 2028, up from US$2.7bn in 2023," says consultancy Deloitte.

"This surge is being driven by a number of factors, including government initiatives to promote the use of EVs, increased awareness of energy storage solutions and the expansion of 5G telecommunications networks," the firm adds.

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