Saudi Arabia’s Vision for the Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry
In a strategic move to diversify its economy and create employment opportunities, Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has committed substantial funds – exceeding $10 billion – to propel its presence in the rapidly evolving electric vehicle sector.
Investments in Lucid Motors and Ceer:
A noteworthy portion of these investments has been directed towards Lucid Motors, a prominent U.S.-based company, with an additional initiative in the establishment of a homegrown EV company named Ceer. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has inaugurated an EV metals factory, solidifying its commitment to the comprehensive development of the EV supply chain.
Challenges Faced by Ceer:
Despite these ambitious endeavors, Ceer, which commenced operations in September 2023, faced challenges in meeting its production targets. By December, approximately 800 vehicles were assembled based on kits sourced from the U.S. state of Arizona, indicating a slower-than-expected start.
Global Competition and Local Challenges:
As Saudi Arabia aspires to achieve an annual production of 500,000 EVs by 2030, experts acknowledge the fierce global competition in the EV industry. Challenges range from supply chain limitations to attracting foreign car manufacturers. Past rejections, such as Toyota’s refusal in 2019, highlight concerns over labor costs, local suppliers, and market size.
Addressing EV Production Hurdles:
China’s dominance in EV production poses an additional hurdle for Saudi Arabia, especially considering the lack of a robust local industry for auto parts production. Ceer’s collaboration with Taiwanese company Foxconn aims to launch an EV by 2025, but challenges in establishing a factory may delay its presence on the road until 2026.
Collaborative Projects and Future Outlook:
Collaborations with South Korean car manufacturer Hyundai, alongside Lucid and Ceer’s projects, envision a cluster of factories in Jeddah’s King Abdullah Economic City. Ceer’s reliance on Germany’s BMW for crucial EV components, including batteries, underscores the global cooperation required for successful local manufacturing.
Balancing Local Growth and Imports:
While some companies propose retaining the supply chain and manufacturing in the United States, potentially earning Saudi incentives, critics argue that this approach could hinder the growth of local Saudi manufacturing. The intricate balance between attracting foreign expertise and fostering indigenous industry growth remains a critical aspect of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious EV journey.