Electric buses, charging stations part of proposals in LTA’s 2050 road map

SIAU MING EN Today Online 3 Jun 16;

SINGAPORE — Decades from now, electric buses with carbon emission levels that are half of those from diesel-powered buses could ply Singapore’s roads, where they may be able to be charged quickly at bus stops along the routes that they travel.

These were two of the ideas and recommendations identified in the Land Transport Authority (LTA)-led technology road map on electro-mobility on Friday (June 3), to help guide future policymaking and infrastructure plans for the deployment of electro-mobility in Singapore by 2050.

But transport analysts TODAY spoke to felt that the two issues of building charging infrastructure and improving car ownership have to be tackled together.

They also noted that while electric vehicles seem more environmentally friendly, the energy they use continues to be generated from carbon-intensive sources.

The Energy Research Institute (ERI@N) at Nanyang Technological University was commissioned by the LTA to draw up the road map. In the report, it was noted that public fleets such as buses and taxis also hold the biggest potential for a switch to their electric versions.

Even though buses and taxis account for only 2 and 3 per cent of the overall vehicle population, respectively, they clock the second highest and highest annual mileage per vehicle, respectively.

Buses, in particular, emit the highest amount of carbon dioxide per vehicle and thus show the most potential for reducing emission levels.

It was also projected that by 2050, as many as 30 to 50 per cent of the vehicles here could be electric vehicles.

Research areas with the most potential here were also identified, such as building up the charging infrastructure technology, as well as energy storage solutions for electric vehicles.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, ERI@N executive director Subodh Mhaisalkar noted that the take-up rate for electric vehicles here is “not huge”, due to cost issues, concerns over the distance electric vehicles can cover as well as the charging time involved.

Some of these can be addressed with new technologies such as fast-charging technology that can charge a car in 30 minutes, or opportunity charging, which allows buses, for instance, to charge their vehicle for 45 seconds to a minute at every bus stop.

Such developments in the industry need not necessarily be spurred on by government subsidies, noted Prof Subodh, adding that the authorities can instead take the lead in facilitating discussions on these topics.

The maintenance and running costs of owning an electric vehicle over 10 years is lower than that of vehicles powered by conventional combustion engines, he pointed out. “So I think in five years, the discussion of subsidies would be a non-issue,” he added.

But Dr Walter Theseira, senior lecturer at SIM University, said the lack of charging infrastructure is the biggest challenge in the electrification of private passenger vehicles. Also, people will not be keen to pay for the necessary infrastructure upgrades to benefit a small number of electric car users.

He also noted that take-up has also been slower than in places such as the United States and Hong Kong, as these countries offer tax breaks or incentives for electric cars.

Dr Park Byung Joon, also a senior lecturer at SIM University, felt that electric cars are, for now, relatively less cheap and convenient in Singapore.

Singapore, unlike China and South Korea, does not stand to gain as much from investing in the electrification of vehicles. This is because those countries have battery industries that will reap economic incentives from further developments.

As consumers, he added, Singapore should bear in mind costs and environmental considerations when investing in electric vehicles.

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