Adoption of electric vehicles in Singapore

Our role in creating clean transport
Success in widespread adoption of electric vehicles calls for unprecedented levels of partnership and cooperation
Marc Pomerleau, Business Times 28 Oct 09;

WHEN we see the latest concept electric vehicles under development, it is hard to believe that the electric car as an idea is in fact not new. In 1832, the Scottish inventor Robert Anderson invented the first crude electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells.

Eighty years later, Henry Ford introduced the mass-manufactured Model T, a vehicle developed in response to the demand to travel farther distances and the advent of the combustion engine powered by then cheap, newly discovered Texas crude, a development that would undermine the advancement of the electric vehicle as a viable commercial product; until now.

It would be a great understatement to say that the world has changed dramatically since the early days of the automobile. Yet much of the current mindset in the halls of power, both in government and industry, remains locked in a paradigm that has lost its relevance today.

What started as embryonic industry oil today has become the most profitable and powerful commodity and lobby the world has ever seen.

While the development of the oil industry has yielded tremendous advancements in so many areas of technology, our resulting dependence has brought with it an array of catastrophic impact.

Everything is connected

Most of the attention for or against clean energy solutions, such as the electric vehicle, centres on the debate around global warming as a real and present danger to the future of our planet and its people. Less talked about, but perhaps even more immediate in terms of threat, is the chokehold that our dependence on foreign oil has on our ability to make free and intelligent choices on how we manage both our political and economic future.

Both global warming and the need to break our addiction to a commodity approaching scarcity are converging. People are waking up after decades of denial. There is now scientific agreement on the gravity of problems we have created. The will to affect change is here. We know what must be done. We have the technology and know-how to apply it. Amidst all this change, both in circumstances and in the availability of relevant technologies, execution remains elusive. Something is missing.

Our prosperity has led us to forget what the ancients always knew: Everything is connected. Such is the evidence of how we came to face the problems we are confronting today. Now, the solution to our dilemma is no different - everything is connected. As I speak with the representatives of all the critical components required to transform our transportation system from an outdated, polluting system based on an addiction to a finite commodity controlled by the few to a near-zero carbon system based on cheap electricity, the silos of self-interest and limited thinking still exist.

The Plug-in Singapore 2009 conference will bring together all the critical voices needed to build an electric vehicle future not only for Singapore and the Asia Pacific but the entire planet. Plug-in Singapore 2009 is about an entire ecosystem of what is required to affect real change through the creation of an economically viable infrastructure that supports clean technology transportation, reduces the demand for a price-unpredictable and finite commodity (oil), and improves the quality of life for all.

So where do we stand today? Electric vehicles are rapidly coming on line, thanks in large part to the auto companies who are responding to grassroots efforts for alternatives to gas-powered vehicles and genuine concerns about the price of oil and the long-term viability of the combustion engine. However, widespread adoption and the transformation we require depend on the creation of supporting infrastructure.

Success rests on creative policy and the political will to make it happen. If the auto companies want to sell electric vehicles then they will also need to advocate for the creation of electric vehicle infrastructure for the consumers of these vehicles. In order to deploy an electric vehicle-charging infrastructure, the power companies must work with policymakers to develop micro grids specifically designed for this purpose.

All of this requires unprecedented levels of partnership and cooperation, and commitment fuelled by clear understanding of the critical nature of a common goal to working together to create a sustainable existence that recognises that everything and all of us are connected. With this support, policies will be put into place, consumers will be considered, electric vehicles will sell and reach critical mass and satisfy the needs of our planet and our people. We must always keep on top of the mind the big picture.

Let us remind ourselves of what is at stake:

# The combustion engine is responsible for 10 per cent of the total carbon output worldwide every year. Of particular concern is that this number is growing fast every year.

# In order for petrol-powered vehicles to reach cost parity with current electric vehicles, oil must drop to below US$10 per barrel. The reality is we are hostage to Opec which controls the world price for this finite commodity with prices that have fluctuated between just under US$40 and US$150 per barrel in just the last five months of 2008.

# Independence from the oligarchy of oil would reduce global conflict, create greater political transparency, stimulate new industry and free up resources to invest in new technologies.

Transformation to an electric vehicle world is the next imperative step in our technological and human development. It is our collective responsibility to take innovative steps together.

Absolute necessity

Plug-in Singapore 2009 is dedicated to move clean transportation into reality. The Singapore event is a major step for South-east Asia. It represents the first-ever conference that will host delegates and representatives from the three major legs of the stool that will make this vision a reality: industry (auto makers, component makers, power providers); the policy sector (government bodies such as Energy Market Authority, Land Transport Authority, Ministry of Trade and Industry, standards bodies and foreign governments); and consumers, whom all of you and your children represent.

Let us remember, clean transportation is not merely an attractive preference. Clean transportation is an absolute necessity. Clean transportation is not a hypothetical possibility. It is, if we are to survive, an absolute inevitability, an inevitability that requires all of us to take an active role in its creation. It is precisely challenges such as this that the human spirit and the highest angels of our nature were designed to conquer.

Such herculean tasks keep us humble while also offering opportunities to demonstrate our greatness. Now is the time. We each have a role to play. Let us unconditionally commit to creating a future we all know in our hearts must become reality.

The writer is the CEO of Cleantech Agency. He will be speaking at the upcoming Singapore International Energy Week 2009 (Nov 16 to 20), at the Plug-in Singapore 2009 conference

1 comment:

  1. The issue we have at hand is very well positioned in this article, and the Plug In Singapore event appears to be a timely reminder. I believe we all have a role to play in the move to clean energy however large or small, and bringing the right minds and issues together in a conference is a good start to creating opportunities to forge new paths to building the future of the industry.

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