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Oil-rich Saudi launches first electric vehicle company

Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday the launch of its first brand of electric vehicles, part of a broader push to diversify the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter.

The company, known as Ceer, “will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s efforts towards carbon emissions reduction and driving sustainability to address the impact of climate change,” the official Saudi Press Agency said.

It is a partnership with Foxconn, China’s biggest private sector employer, which “will develop the electrical architecture of the vehicles”, SPA said.

Ceer “will design, manufacture and sell a range of vehicles for consumers in Saudi Arabia and the MENA region, including sedans and sports utility vehicles,” it said, adding the company was expected to create “30,000 direct and indirect jobs”.

Ceer vehicles “are scheduled to be available in 2025”, SPA said.

In April, Saudi Arabia announced a deal with US-based Lucid Motors, which is setting up a factory in the kingdom, to purchase up to 100,000 electric vehicles over the next decade.

Like the Lucid deal, Ceer is backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose Vision 2030 reform agenda depends on rapid economic diversification.

“Saudi Arabia is not just building a new automotive brand, we are igniting a new industry and an ecosystem that attracts international and local investments, creates job opportunities for local talent, enables the private sector, and contributes to increasing Saudi Arabia’s GDP over the next decade,” Prince Mohammed said Thursday.

Last year, ahead of the COP26 climate-change summit, Saudi Arabia pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2060, sparking scepticism from environmental campaigners.

Saudi officials have lately stressed the need for more investment in fossil fuels, arguing that focusing on climate change at the expense of energy security would exacerbate inflation and other economic woes.