S’pore To Phase Out Petrol Cars By 2040

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in last year’s Budget speech that Singapore will be gradually phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2040.

To achieve this goal, the government has laid out various measures to boost the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) in Singapore.

As part of the inter-ministerial Singapore Green Plan 2030 announced on Wednesday (February 10), the government said it would “make it easier to buy and own” electric vehicles.

The government has also highlighted its plans to expand the EV charging infrastructure to 60,000 by the end of 2030. This is double the original target it set of 28,000.

Currently, there are about 1,600 EV charging stations islandwide. 

Projected number of EV charging stations
Number of EV charging stations in Singapore to significantly increase over the years / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

These efforts are geared towards paving the way for greater adoption of EVs in the intervening years. 

Singapore is not alone in its quest to transition to EVs. In fact, countries all over the world are gearing up in preparation for an EV revolution. 

The Global Shift Towards EVs

electric cars
Image Credit: Quartz

Over the past decade, the global EV fleet has expanded significantly, underpinned by an outpouring of government support in various countries.

EVs are seen as a key strategy to reduce air pollution in densely populated areas, and also acts as a way to contribute to countries’ sustainability objectives. 

These vehicles have an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine, and use a large traction battery pack to power the electric motor instead. 

Since it runs on electricity, the vehicle emits no exhaust from a tailpipe, and produces significantly lower emissions than conventional cars. 

A study by the universities of Exeter and Cambridge in the UK and Nijmegen in the Netherlands has concluded that electric cars lead to lower carbon emissions overall.

Under current conditions, driving an electric car is better for the climate than conventional petrol cars in 95 per cent of the world, according to the study.

EVs and their contribution to the decarbonisation of road transport are thus a welcome addition to the sustainability efforts of governments around the world. 

According to the Global EV Outlook 2020 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the stock of electric cars in the world last year was at 7.2 million, a nine-year high. 

To match the growth of electric car ownership, the number of publicly accessible charging points has increased as well. In 2019, there were about 7.3 million chargers worldwide.

China, the Netherlands, and the United States are the top three countries that are investing significantly in the trend towards electrification.  

The US electric vehicles market is slated to reach 6.9 million unit sales by 2025, up from the 1.4 million unit sales forecast for 2020, due to government incentives driving EV ownership.

According to Prajyot Sathe, the Frost & Sullivan industry manager for mobility practice, over 90 per cent of states in the US offered incentives for setting up EV charging infrastructure.

In the US, Tesla is leading the pack. According to Statista, the company was the leading producer of plug-in electric vehicles in 2019. 

Tesla Model 3 was also the world’s most popular plug-in electric vehicle with worldwide unit sales of more than 300,000 in the same year.

China has also come up with ambitious goals for EV adoption in the country, and incentivisation and heavy government intervention have played a crucial role in helping the Chinese EV market to flourish.

Since 2016, China has been the fastest and largest growing market for electric vehicles in the world.

According to the MIT Energy Initiative, China recently imposed a mandate on automakers requiring that EVs make up 40 per cent of all sales by 2030.

Much like China and the US, the Netherlands has been quick to make the push towards the uptake of EVs.

In 2020, the Netherlands briefly became Tesla’s biggest market in Europe and EVs achieved record electric-vehicle adoption as well.

In December 2020, the Netherlands achieved a 69 per cent all-electric vehicle market share, a figure normally only seen in Norway.

While Singapore is just getting started, it is making progress.

How Singapore Is Pushing The Uptake Of EVs

electric cars
Image Credit: Eco Business

Back home, the Singapore government is also ramping up its efforts to promote EV usage on the island as a way to boost its efforts to attain its sustainability goals. 

Singapore supports the Sustainable Development Goals under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a global development framework adopted by world leaders at the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. 

Some of the targets under the framework include building a sustainable city, and “taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.” 

Aside from that, Singapore has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 36 per cent by 2030 from its 2015 levels, as well as stabilise its emissions and have them peak around 2030.

To drive the uptake of EVs, the government has also implemented rebate schemes for electric car buyers.

An early adoption incentive scheme will be rolled out for EV buyers from 2021 to 2023.

It will offer a 45 per cent rebate on the car’s Additional Registration Fee (ARF, the main car tax), capped at S$20,000 per vehicle.

Bigger rebates under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme were offered as well. Together, they accord an electric car buyer as much as $45,000 in tax breaks.

In addition, the road tax for electric vehicles will be lowered. There will be a six-monthly lump sum tax for EVs from 2021, starting at S$100, then S$200 in 2022, and S$350 from 2023 onwards.

Besides cars, Singapore has also pushed forward with shared electric scooters, electric taxis, and even driverless electric buses, to scale up into a nationwide electric mobility ecosystem. 

ION mobility electr=ic mo9torcycle
Ion Mobility’s electric motorcycle / Image Credit: Ion Mobility

However, the government cannot do this alone and has to work with various private sector players, such as EV startups, charging point providers and carpark owners.

According to Ion Mobility co-founder and CEO James Chan, the local electric motorcycle startup has received “tremendous support from the government.”

This came in the form of additional grants from SEEDS Capital (which the startup used for regional expansion), development of its in-house research and development capabilities, as well as the building of its supply chain and manufacturing capabilities. 

“Minister Chan Chun Sing and his team at Minister of Trade and Industry (MTI) were instrumental in helping us to obtain Land Transport Authority approval for road testing of our prototypes,” James told Vulcan Post. 

While the government has implemented measures to encourage consumers to make the switch to EV, it also supported the growth of other private sector players, leading to a growth in the number of startups in the EV industry. 

Another key player is electric car sharing startup BlueSG, which launched in Singapore in December 2017.

It currently has a fleet of 667 shared electric Bluecar vehicles and 1,487 charging stations that is spread across 374 locations islandwide, from public housing, to city centre and commercial estates around Singapore.

It was a fairly new concept when they first started out, so people had no idea what to expect.

Car-sharing was pretty unknown, and there were probably less than 10 electric cars in Singapore at the time.

Many years ahead, Singapore is still lagging behind (in terms of electric vehicle adoption), to be honest. But I believe that BlueSG played a big part in the change of mindset.

Franck Vitte, managing director of BlueSG in an interview with Vulcan Post

Since people were so unfamiliar with the concept of car-sharing and electric vehicles back then, they had to educate the population about the benefits and how to use it.

EV Industry Player Role Played In The EV Industry
BlueSGBlueSG offers an affordable and convenient mobility option to Singaporeans with its electric car-sharing service. 

It currently has a fleet of 667 shared electric Bluecar vehicles and 1,487 charging stations that is spread across 374 locations islandwide. 

Scorpio ElectricAn electric motorcycle startup that is producing “smart”, zero-emission motorcycles featuring artificial intelligence and data analytics for increased energy efficiency.

In November 2020, it secured US$6.3 million in funding to further develop and produce its fully electric motorcycles.

Ion MobilityAn electric motorcycle startup  in pre-launch stage. 

Last year, it closed US$3.3 million in seed funding to launch its smart electric motorbikes in Southeast Asia, expand its market presence, develop R&D, supply chain and manufacturing capabilities.

Greenlots, SP Group, Charge+, Shell Recharge, BlueSGOrganisations that provide EV charging points around Singapore for a fee. 

Currently, there are about 1,600 EV charging stations islandwide.

A table of the players in Singapore’s EV industry

The EV landscape in Singapore has garnered interest from automobile giants like Hyundai, which has chosen Singapore as the location for its new electric car manufacturing plant

The upcoming Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Jurong is set to be completed by end 2022, and is touted to be the first of its kind in the world.

According to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the plant is “an investment of almost S$400 million, and may produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025.”

Most recently, Tesla has received green light to start selling its electric cars in Singapore. 

Observers have previously speculated that a Tesla car could be priced from S$145,000, or less than a petrol-powered Toyota Camry.

Screenshot from Tesla Singapore

Tesla Singapore’s website went live on February 9, listing down the estimate retail prices of the cars.

A Tesla Model 3 Performance will retail at an estimated price of just under S$155,000 before the Certificate of Entitlement (COE). This more powerful model boasts a top speed of 261km/h, and can reach 100km/h in 3.3 seconds.

Where Does Singapore Stand In Comparison With The Rest Of The World?

tesla
Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Despite Singapore’s progress in the EV landscape, it is still a far cry from other countries like Norway. 

Norway became the first country in the world where the sale of electric cars has overtaken those powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines. 

Battery-powered electric cars make up 54.3 per cent of all new cars sold in the Nordic country in 2020, surpassing global records. 

Its success can be attributed to the ‘carrot and stick’ approach. The government offered extremely generous incentives to EV buyers, and financially punished people who continued to use gas or diesel cars.

Singapore, on the other hand, has gone from one electric car on the roads at the end of 2015 to 1,036 fully electric cars at the end of 2019. 

Number of electric cars on Singapore roads from 2015 to 2019
Number of electric cars on Singapore roads from 2015 to 2019 / Image Credit: Vulcan Post

Singapore’s attempts to ramp up EV ownership have been impressive, but more effort is needed to continue this growth. 

Even though the government has also implemented policies to reduce the number of cars, there are nearly one million vehicles on Singapore’s roads, making the percentage of EVs astoundingly small. 

This is due to the variety of factors that hinder Singaporeans from choosing EVs over traditional petrol-fuelled vehicles. 

First and foremost, an EV costs between S$100,000 and S$160,000 for mass market models, and might not be the most affordable option out there on the market. 

Potential EV buyers also face “range anxiety” — the fear that an EV will run out of charge mid-journey — which discourages private EV ownership. 

This is especially so in Singapore’s current EV landscape where most charging points are located at public spaces, which might not be necessarily convenient for drivers. 

“I would like to own an EV, but there are no charging points near my house, and it doesn’t make sense to have to wait for my car to charge before driving it home at the end of the day,” said Tesla-enthusiast Nathan Chan. 

His thoughts are echoed by many Singaporeans, which is why Singapore firm Charge+ is planning to set up 10,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging points across the island by 2030.

charge+
Image Credit: Charge+

Charge+ is currently focusing on three market segments: residential, commercial and industrial, as well as fleets.

It aims to install charging points in public housing estates and private developments, particularly condominiums, so residents can have a peace of mind of being able to charge their EVs overnight.

Beyond residential spaces, Charge+ is also looking at installing charging points in commercial and industrial buildings to serve the workplace market.

By doing so, Charge+ is also indirectly attracting more visitors to the premises, which benefits the tenants, as well as enhancing the environmental sustainability of the building.

Lastly, Charge+ will also serve companies operating electric vehicle fleets so they can lower their total cost of ownership.

Slowly, But Surely: An Attainable Target

James acknowledged that the EV market has received “tremendous interest” from the public over the last few years. 

“We’ve received a number of enquiries from dealers and prospective customers who are interested in the potential benefits that EV can bring to Singapore,” the founder told Vulcan Post. 

He added that though courageous, Singapore’s plans to phase out ICE vehicles by 2040 are not unattainable ones. 

We believe there is a lot of potential that is yet to be tapped in Singapore. Plans are underway to make Singapore’s transport sector more environmentally sustainable.

I believe with the right measures, such as expanding the charging infrastructure and providing additional incentives, we will gradually see a shift towards adoption of EVs in Singapore.

James Chan, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ion Mobility

These tangible targets set by the government and various organisations have signalled the seriousness in combating climate change. 

Singapore also ticks all the boxes for electric car sellers and drivers with its compact size, tidy roads, technology expertise, and sustainable transport ambitions.

Slowly but surely, Singapore is getting there — it’s already taking all the right steps forward to attain its goal.

Featured Image Credit: Budget Direct Asia

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Jothi Venkat

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