For many countries, adoption of electric vehicles has a range of problems (sic). Cost, range, and grid availability ranks amongst the top concern for potential buyers of electric cars. These problems however, could be the least of a Singaporean buyer’s concern if the government could take steps in the right direction.
While most motorists in the world would baulk at the prices of EVs, they would probably accept the price of an EV after looking at how much it costs to drive a gasoline powered vehicle in Singapore. The Nissan Leaf costs S$85,000, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV costs S$88,000 and the Renault Fluence ZE costs S$90,000. In comparison, the gasoline driven Fluence costs S$140,999 today. Of course, these prices (of the EVs) exclude the COE (Certificate of Entitlement) and ARF (Additional Registration Fee) which would probably tripled the price in today’s context. All these are made possible with TIDES - Transport Technology and Innovation Scheme, a government initiative which provides grants to waive the COE and ARF for qualifying vehicles for a period of 6 years.
Although this may sound great and signals that the government is ready to adopt electric vehicles, it isn’t. Only companies with an R&D department, are allowed to select from the very limited range of vehicles. In contrast, the US EPA has made its federal tax credit of US$7,500 pretty accessible to all strata of the society, for all types of EVs. Of course, one may argue that we are looking at different forms of comparison here, but consider the fact that in the US, the Leaf costs less than US$30,000 before the credit and barely even US$22,000 after – US$7,500 is quite a bit of money.
This also proves that the government has the ability to control the prices of EVs and make it affordable to the masses. Measures could be introduced to control the number EVs sold such as the tagging of each sale to an available COE as well as its 10 year lifespan.
Critics who are concerned with the range of EVs will have little concern with it around the tiny island. The longest expressway in Singapore spans 41km from the East to West of the island. Even the most traveled vehicle on our roads – the Taxis – are having trouble achieving 250km per day, most could not even reach 200km. Given that most people use their vehicles to travel from their homes to offices, with a couple of additional stops in between, most EVs in today’s market would be sufficient to meet that need.
Unlike many other cities in the world, Singapore has an effective grid that is available throughout the island. Technically speaking, it is possible to set up a charging station anywhere around the island. To top it off, Singapore’s grid supplies electricity at 230 volts, a voltage required by major automakers for fast-charging. This further lessens the anxiety critics have with range – a short stop anywhere around the island is sufficient to fill the juice up to 80% of its capacity – that’s at least 80km each way.
The one problem
With all the above being said, the Electric Vehicle still has a major problem operating in this country – batteries. Batteries function optimally at room temperatures, which is impossible to maintain. Cold weather reduces capacity, but the hot weather in Singapore reduces the service life of the battery. This results in higher maintenance costs as the batteries run out of their service life much quicker. While technology is advancing quickly to eliminate these flaws in the characteristics of batteries, scientists are also researching on new battery technologies which would make EVs even more appealing.
While we hope advanced technologies such as ultracapacitors would one day make driving EVs as convenient as driving gasoline vehicles, it is every government’s prerogative to make EVs a viable replacement to gasoline driven vehicles.