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Electric cars in Singapore – How do they work?

Singapore’s foray into electric vehicles (EVs) has been hit by starts and stops. Electric carmaker Tesla’s chief executive officer Elon Musk also famously criticised the Singapore government for being “unsupportive” of electric vehicles.

But hope springs anew with the Singapore government’s announcement of a raft of new measures to encourage more EV usage to combat climate change this year. In the near future, you can even order and customise an electric car on your phone and collect it from the factory. This factory is currently being built right now at Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Jurong, which will likely be completed by end 2022.

What does the future for electric cars in Singapore look like, and are they set to become more common here? What are the benefits of driving an electric car, and is it time you considered investing in one? Read on to find out.

How do electric cars work?

According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, EVs have an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine (ICE) which petrol-driven cars use.

The vehicle uses a large traction battery pack to power the electric motor and must be plugged in to a charging station or wall outlet to charge. Because it runs on electricity, the vehicle emits no exhaust from a tailpipe and does not contain the typical liquid fuel components, such as a fuel pump, fuel line, or fuel tank.

Benefits of electric cars

Better for the earth, and your health

You don’t have to be a tree hugger to appreciate the biggest benefit of electric cars — they produce no exhaust emissions and are better for the environment and your health.

And if you use renewable energy to recharge your EV (such as at charging points by Charge+ which harnesses solar energy), you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint even further. Landed property homeowners could also consider installing their own solar panels to charge their EVs and emit zero carbon.

Reducing the amount of harmful exhaust emissions will lead to less pollution, better air quality and health benefits for us.

Lower running costs

In Singapore, charging an EV can cost half what you’d need to pay if you are refueling your conventional car. This is based on the tariff at an SP Group public charging station using a 43kW AC charger, at $0.414 per kWh (prices are adjusted periodically based on prevailing electricity costs). Shell Recharging and Greenlots charge $0.55 per kWh and $1.50 an hour respectively.

You can save even more if you install a home charger; some manufacturers include the price of one in the vehicle’s sale price. It costs as little as $0.1768 kWh at current rates; and if your energy comes from solar panels, you could charge your EVs for nothing other than the installation costs of the panels.

Cheaper maintenance

EVs are simple and strong and require relatively little servicing as compared to a conventional car. It only has one moving part — the rotor — as well as the brakes, tyres and suspension to maintain regularly. Unlike in a conventional car, it has no expensive exhaust systems, starter motors, fuel injection systems, radiators, etc.

Do note that you will also need to replace the batteries of your EV every 5 to 8 years when they wear out. Car makers usually offer a warranty for your battery of up to 100,000km, which works out to about six years’ mileage for the average car in Singapore.

Will electric cars be more common in Singapore?

It wasn’t too long ago in 2017 when to much fanfare, British inventor James Dyson announced ambitious plans for his household appliance firm to start producing electric cars by 2020.

The next year, the company said it had picked Singapore as the place to build its much-anticipated electric car plant. Many of us here were ecstatic, but just a year later, the company announced the project had been canned. Commercial viability was cited as the key reason why the company had hit the brakes.

But… electric cars will be common in Singapore. Early this year, the Singapore government announced that ICE vehicles will be phased out by 2040, setting the wheels in motion for greater adoption of EVs in the years to come.

It has also announced a raft of measures to encourage the adoption of EVs. For one, Singapore aims to have 28,000 EV charging points by 2030, up from just 1,600 now. About two-thirds of the 28,000 EV charging points will be in Housing Board car parks across Singapore, making it more convenient for the everyday Singaporean to hop on board the EV bandwagon.

Schemes will also be implemented to make EVs more attractive. For example, the Vehicular Emissions Scheme will be extended to light commercial vehicles. From January 2021 onwards, the current road tax scheme for EVs and some hybrids will also be revised, resulting in lower taxes for these vehicles.

In addition, an early-adoption incentive scheme will be rolled out for EV buyers from 2021 to 2023. It will offer rebates capped at $20,000 per vehicle, lowering the barrier to entry for those looking to buy an EV.

Number of electric cars in Singapore

EVs have had a very slow start in Singapore. In 2015, there was just one. However, that number has been growing at a steady rate since. As of January this year, the current EV population stands at 1,125. This is fewer than 0.2 per cent of the current car population in Singapore.

One of the biggest reasons cited for the slow take-up rate of EVs is their more expensive price tag as compared to ICE vehicles. This is in part due to EV car parts costing more to make. The cheapest EV in Singapore is the Renault Zoe, which will set you back more than $120,000.

As EVs generally have a higher Open Market Value (OMV), they are also currently subjected to a higher road tax as well. This eats into the fuel savings EV car owners enjoy. So while the overall running costs of an EV are still lower than a conventional car, an EV owner would need to drive greater distances everyday in order to accumulate enough savings to offset the higher upfront cost of an EV.

However, this could change as soon as 2022; the year industry watches such as Deloitte estimate that the EV market could reach a tipping point. Coupled with significant improvements to battery technology, experts predict that the cost of owning an EV could be on par with that of owning an ICE vehicle then.

All these and more could well make the leap from ICE vehicles to EVs a more realistic and viable option for car owners in Singapore, and cause the numbers of EVs here to increase at a faster rate.

Keen to drive an electric car? Hope we have given you an insight of how viable it is in Singapore! To try out the experience, you can also sign up for BlueSG, an electric car-sharing service.

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