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Electric vehicles ‘not economically feasible yet’

SINGAPORE — Analysis of data from the first phase of the Republic’s 30-month test bed for electric vehicles (EVs) has found that while the deployment of EVs is suitable here, such vehicles are not economically feasible for adoption, even after taking into account the health and environmental benefits to society, the authorities said yesterday.

A car being charged at a charging station at the Energy Market Authority at Alexandra. Photo: Bosch

A car being charged at a charging station at the Energy Market Authority at Alexandra. Photo: Bosch

SINGAPORE — Analysis of data from the first phase of the Republic’s 30-month test bed for electric vehicles (EVs) has found that while the deployment of EVs is suitable here, such vehicles are not economically feasible for adoption, even after taking into account the health and environmental benefits to society, the authorities said yesterday.

The first phase, conducted by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Energy Market Authority, was carried out between 2011 and last year. A joint press release by the LTA and the Economic Development Board (EDB) said surveys done before and after the test bed found that participants were concerned about the purchase price of EVs, the availability of personal and public charging infrastructure as well as the limitations of the technology — such as the range, battery life and time taken to charge the vehicles.

A cost-benefit analysis found that the use of EVs is technically feasible here. For example, the average EV daily driving distance was 46km — close to the national daily average of 50km for a regular passenger car and much lower than the EV manufacturers’ reported range of between 120km and 160km per charge. One of the EVs recorded a distance of 156km on a single charge.

It was also found that the impact of charging EVs on Singapore’s electricity grid was insignificant. Studies by TUM CREATE — a joint research programme between Technische Universitat Munchen in Germany and Nanyang Technological University — showed that if all private cars here were assumed to be EVs, the daily load on the power system would increase by 4.8 per cent.

However, EVs are still not economically feasible here. The open market value of an EV is around three times that of regular cars. “As the current tax structure for vehicles in Singapore is ad valorem and progressive, this results in a greater tax burden for an EV,” the LTA and the EDB said.

After accounting for taxes and rebates under the Carbon Emissions-Based Vehicle Scheme, a Nissan Leaf EV costs S$200,000, while its non-electric equivalent Nissan Sylphy ICEV costs S$110,000, based on May prices.

Nevertheless, the LTA and the EDB noted that similar to the development of hybrid vehicles, the prices of EVs are expected to fall as the cost of the technology continues to decline and mass production achieves economies of scale.

Car-sharing firm smove, which started operations almost four years ago, operates on a small-scale EV car-sharing model. It has six EVs on its books, on top of 16 hybrid cars. Adding that the firm has temporarily suspended the usage of its EVs, its spokesman cited several obstacles to the adoption of EVs here, such as a lack of public education on such cars and an inadequate charging infrastructure. More charging stations should be located at residential and commercial hubs, for a start, he said.

Currently, charging service provider Bosch runs 71 charging stations on the island, with the majority found in west and central Singapore.

iCarsclub general manager Navin Kumar noted that young drivers usually start with driving vehicles owned by their parents and tend to stick to petrol-powered cars. To break the habit, EVs must be cheaper than regular cars, he said.

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