Full speed ahead for car-sharing in Singapore

Local car-sharing operators are looking to expand their fleet, with some keen on being part of a programme involving electric cars.
Kenneth Lim Channel NewsAsia 10 Apr 16;

SINGAPORE: Local car-sharing operators are looking to expand their fleets, amid high Certificate of Entitlement prices and increasing demand.

Major players in the car-sharing industry such as Car Club, Popular Rent A Car and Smove said they have seen a membership increase in recent years.

"Car-sharing became more accepted because people started to perceive the car as a different tool, or they are looking to extract greater value from the car,” said vice-president of Car Club Gary Ong. “Typically, they are predominant users of the public transport and they would just like the car for occasional use, so we are trying to plug that gap."

Unlike renting a car, car-sharing allows one to rent a car from one place and drop it off at another. It costs about S$10 per hour and about S$300 to S$400 a month, according to estimates.

“You can access it 24-7 without having to own one,” said Popular Rent A Car managing director Ho Kok Kee. “That's the beautiful thing about it - it's like a 7-11 store, as convenient as that."


Transport authorities are now evaluating proposals for an electric car sharing programme, to put 1,000 electric cars on Singapore's roads within 10 years.

According to Land Transport Authority documents, authorities are currently evaluating three possible car-sharing models. The first is a station-based model, where drivers are required to park at designated lots equipped with charging stations.

The second is a free-floating model, where you can park at any public or private car parks, regardless of whether it has a charging station or not. The hybrid model, which is the third option, is a combination of both.

The electric car-sharing programme will also require the involvement of a consortium of companies. This includes car-sharing operators and companies that provide charging services and electric vehicle manufacturers.

Some car-sharing operators have said they are keen on being part of this future electric car-sharing ecosystem.

"We do collaborative projects, research projects and R&D projects with local institutes of higher learning,” said Mr Ong. “We do it with NTU and we're consistently looking to do it with many other institutions in Singapore. We view that as preparation as well. At the same time, we want to be part of the local ecosystem to build it up locally, to be part of a ‘uniquely Singapore’ solution."

Channel NewsAsia understands that around three companies have been shortlisted so far and that results will be announced by the end of 2016.


However, others have some concerns. "The Government is putting in a lot of effort to provide many options for our citizens, but I think it is still in the very early stage,” said Mr Ho. “To me, it is pretty complex and a big jump from our current business model. We are talking about establishing a whole electric charging infrastructure. When we are more established, we might consider."

According to Smove's chief operating officer Joseph Ting, the problem of shortage of parking spaces could arise if electric cars are parked in convenient areas. “If we have more electric vehicles on the road, this may mean less space for normal car owners,” he said.

“Is this a trade-off the Government is willing to take in the interest of the longer term sustainability of transport in Singapore? I think there are some painful choices to be made, but if they are made, I'll say it will work as Singapore is a small, dense and urban population with a high technology take-up rate.”

Mr Ting's company switched from electric to hybrid cars before. "We did start out as a fully electric fleet, as part of the Government's Phase One of the electric vehicle testbed. We ran that for about a year and the response was good and we could see that Singaporeans were getting used to electric cars. The reason why we pivoted away from that to hybrid cars was that we needed to grow fast as a business.”

For Car Club’s Mr Ong, the success of the electric car-sharing programme will pave the way for the roll-out of driverless vehicles. These cars, also known as autonomous vehicles or AVs, are currently being tested in areas like one-north and Sentosa.

"When you go to electric vehicles, you need to have proof of concept, like that there's no mileage anxiety and so on. The perceptions become more robust and that's when you move on to the AVs which I think will be the game changer," he said.

"(But) at the end of the day, we can't put out 1,000 vehicles right on the spot,” he added. “It has to be staggered - infrastructure has to be set out in the right way, priorities have to be maintained. So that's how I think it will be - it will be a staggered roll-out towards 10 years, and at the end of 10 years we will hit the 1,000."

- CNA/xk

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