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Govt push for EV adoption: Some car dealers, would-be buyers upbeat on higher sales but see hurdles

SINGAPORE — Even with Singapore’s push to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by lowering their overall cost, some car dealers said they are not looking to bring in large numbers of EVs anytime soon, but hope to see a slow rise in sales in the next few years.

Both car dealers and prospective electric vehicle buyers say the wide availability of charging points is crucial to these vehicles gaining in popularity in Singapore.

Both car dealers and prospective electric vehicle buyers say the wide availability of charging points is crucial to these vehicles gaining in popularity in Singapore.

  • Car deals and prospective EV buyers welcomed the government initiatives on EVs
  • Some car dealers said they will still hold off on importing EVs until they see infrastructural improvements, such as more charging points
  • One EV owner said more EV buyers are needed before private firms will invest in infrastructure
  • Experts said that non-financial incentives such as reserved EV parking and EV-only roads could also be considered

 

SINGAPORE — Even with Singapore’s push to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) by lowering their overall cost, some car dealers said they are not looking to bring in large numbers of EVs anytime soon, but hope to see a slow rise in sales in the next few years.

Some car buyers looking to switch to EVs told TODAY that certain barriers have to be overcome first, including the availability of charging infrastructure and EV prices that are closer to those of internal combustion engine cars.

Mr Adrian Ang, the director of car dealership Star Deals Gallery, is optimistic that the adoption of EVs will ramp up in the years to come, and said he will adjust his EV stock based on demand.

“With the increased support from the Government, I think that moving forward, we will see more EVs,” he said. “So we have to make the shift from now onwards.”

He currently has about 10 EVs — all of them Teslas — in stock, and has sold 15 Teslas over the past year. But EVs represent less than 10 per cent of his overall stock, Mr Ang said.

At car dealership CarBiz, EVs make up about 5 per cent of the firm’s total stock, though its director, Mr Abel Ang, said that this figure is bound to increase to about 10 per cent over the next two to three years.

“From there, it all depends on the technology, whether prices go down further, and whether there are more (car) models.”

The car dealers’ relatively upbeat outlook comes after Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (Feb 16) gave more details of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a multi-ministry roadmap launched last week to make Singapore more environmentally sustainable over the next 10 years.

They include lowering the additional registration fee floor for EVs to zero between January 2022 and December 2023, and adjusting the road tax for EVs so owners of these cars can pay road tax that is comparable to those with internal combustion engine cars.

In a bid to more than double the charging points here from the previous target of 28,000 to 60,000, the authorities will set aside S$30 million over the next five years for EV-related initiatives, such as measures to improve charging provision at private and public premises.

Earlier this month, American EV manufacturer Tesla had secured approval to begin sales of its cars here, with the Tesla Model 3 Performance retailing at S$155,000 before the Certificate of Entitlement (COE), and the Model 3 Standard Range going for S$113,000 before COE.

While car dealers that TODAY spoke to said that they are grateful for the Government's initiative to reduce the price gap between EVs and regular vehicles, some said they will still hold off on importing EVs until they see infrastructural improvements, such as more charging points.

“Infrastructure is really important, and I don’t know if the 60,000 charging points is sufficient,” said Think One Automotive director Neo Tiam Ting, who has not yet brought in an EV to sell, and does not plan to do so in the short run.

Based on annual vehicle statistics published by the Land Transport Authority last year, the total car population here is about 636,000.

Mr Neo said that assuming each charging point could handle two EVs a day, that would amount to 120,000 vehicles, or about one-fifth of Singapore’s car population.

“If the 60,000 can only cope with 20 per cent of the population, how about the remaining?”

Mr Raymond Tang, director of Yong Lee Seng Motor, said that the initiatives are welcome, but that the timing of the announcements may inadvertently discourage buyers from making purchases.

For instance, it was announced in last year’s Budget that an early adoption incentive scheme will be rolled out for EV buyers from 2021 to 2023. Then, during this year’s Budget, it was announced that the lowered additional registration fee floor will take effect from next year.

“Those that are carrying EV vehicles now will not be selling well, as consumers will still wait,” said Mr Tang, suggesting that buyers would hold off purchases if they believe more attractive government incentives lie ahead.

TODAY has sought comment from Tesla on the Government’s recent moves.

CAR OWNERS WANT MORE EV CHARGERS

Operations manager E N Ng said that he had been thinking of buying an EV but those plans faded when he moved from a landed property to a condominium early last year.

The 37-year-old said that the lack of charging points in shared or public parking spaces was the biggest deterrent.

“The Government has to really think about the infrastructure first, before the number of EVs can go up,” he said.

Conversely, EV owner, Mr Alvin Seet, said that buyers have to take the lead in purchasing EVs.

The 48-year-old, who works in the aviation industry and owns a second hand BMW i3, said that there have to be more EV owners on the roads before owners of private properties such as condos and malls will be willing to invest in more charging points at their parking lots.

“People who set up these chargers, they need revenue from these lots, so they can justify setting up more lots,” he said.

Mr Justin Lee, who is still deciding if he wants to purchase an EV, said that he was encouraged by his condominium’s management, which plans to install EV charging points at the premises in the next few months.

“The Budget announcement only serves to reinforce this initiative, and several of my neighbours are also considering EVs,” said the 39-year-old software engineer.

OTHER SOLUTIONS PROPOSED

While most stakeholders lauded the Government’s push to reduce the cost difference between purchasing EVs and regular cars, some experts recommended “non-financial incentives” that other nations have adopted.

International president of technology firm Envision Digital, Ms Sylvie Ouziel, said that for instance, there could be reserved EV parking lots, or some parts of the central business district area that are accessible only to EVs.

Ms Ouziel’s firm, which is focused on helping policymakers and businesses achieve net-zero carbon emissions, has experience working on projects that have led to the increased adoption of EVs.

She added that a challenge that has been faced overseas is in ensuring the power grid has the bandwidth to deal with many EVs charging at once and not cause blackouts, a scenario that may present itself in the future during peak hours, for instance.

“The challenge is if you want to consume more electricity, you’ll need a bigger pipe and more electricity entering the building,” she said. “If you need to expand your (electric capacity), it costs money… and it takes time.”

Related topics

electric vehicles charging Budget 2021

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