Masdar City – a future carbon-neutral city

Posted on October 4, 2012


Sgouris Sgouridis is an associate professor at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. Masdar Institute is a completely new university that Abu Dhabi is establishing and they have great ambitions. I have had contact with Sgouris for some time and so naturally I visited Masdar when I was in Abu Dhabi. When I received instructions on how I was to travel there I became a little concerned,

“Masdar City is opposite Presidential Flight next to the Abu Dhabi Airport. Inside Masdar City, you should ask the taxi to drop you off at the PRT parking where you can take the automatic vehicles to the Institute (just press the green button). Once you arrive at the Institute you can take the stairs up and ask for me at the reception.”

Presentation of Masdar City

To the right is the parking and you can see the track for the PRT. The houses under construction are the Masdar Institute.

(Tour of Masdar City in January 2012. What you see is the Institute, students housing and the library.)


The green button sounded a little mysterious.

Vectus (a South Korean transport company) has a test site for their PRT, Personal Rapid Transit system, in Uppsala that I have visited and test-ridden. So I know what “PRT” stands for. That I should, without planning, get to experience an actual functioning system was unexpected. ( Uppsala is one of Sweden’s cities that that may be among the first to establish a PRT system.

I arrived at the PRT parking area in a taxi, stepped into a driverless car and pressed the green button. The doors closed and the car began to roll. To my surprise there were no rails like at the Uppsala test site. Instead, the car moved on a cement road. I have now found a description of the system on YouTube that you can watch:

I must confess that I did not know much about Masdar City before I came to Abu Dhabi but now I have been there and have seen it with my own eyes and have had discussions with people who work there. If you are interested you can search the internet and find an amazing amount of information on Masdar City. The project to found the city was presented in 2006 and the idea is that it will be a carbon-neutral place where about 45,000 people will live. The city will not allow normal cars and all transport will use PRT vehicles instead. So that the city will not be disturbed by vehicle traffic the entire city will be built on a cement plate that is between 8 and 9 metres above ground. The PRT vehicles will move around underneath the plate and other service facilities will also be located there. In the heart of the city there will be a university where master and doctoral students study. The part of the city that has already been built is the university with its student accommodation. If one is accepted as a master or doctoral student then all costs, including accommodation and food, are paid by the government. The idea is that there will eventually be around 800 students. There are currently 300. They accept students from around the world so who knows, in future we may see students from Uppsala in Masdar City.

The building of the university will be completed and they will focus on research with relevance to sustainable development. What happens with the rest of the city remains to be seen. Apparently they will abandon the idea of the cement plate 8 metres above the ground and the PRT vehicles will become part of normal traffic. Masdar City is owned by the state and we will see how far the state’s oil income stretches. It would be nice to have some exchange with them in future. We will see what the city becomes. Of course I saw solar panels everywhere.

My lecture on “Peeking at Peak Oil” was well attended. I gave a copy of the book to their library. My estimate is that approximately one third of the audience was from the local population and the rest were students from other nations. Masdar City is only one of the gigantic projects in Abu Dhabi’s planning up to 2030. There may be reason to look a little more closely at the energy balance in their planning.

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