New emissions scheme, tighter standards to curb air pollution: Masagos

Monica Kotwani Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: Rebates or surcharges under the new Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) will be determined by its worst-performing pollutant, to encourage buyers to choose car and taxi models with lower emissions. Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said this in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 8) as part of his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.

The new scheme was first announced during the Budget this year, as a replacement to the Carbon Emissions-Based Scheme (CEVS) for all new cars, taxis and newly imported cars. The CEVS, introduced in 2013, and revised in 2015, was aimed at encouraging owners to move towards vehicles with low carbon dioxide emissions. The new scheme will expand on this, to include four other pollutants - hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM).

Providing more details, the National Environment Agency said rebates and surcharges for cars will range between S$10,000 and S$20,000, while those for taxis will range between S$10,000 and S$30,000, depending on the vehicle’s worst-performing pollutant.

It said similar to the CEVS, rebates and surcharges for taxis under the new scheme will be 50 per cent higher to encourage taxi companies to adopt fleets with lower emission models. That is because taxis clock a higher mileage than cars.

It will affect all cars and taxis registered from Jan 1, 2018, to Dec 31, 2019. NEA said the scheme will be reviewed regularly and take into account purchasing decisions by motorists, technological advances and Singapore’s overall efforts to mitigate climate change and air pollution.

Meanwhile, NEA said the existing CEVS will be extended by six months to the end of this year, to give vehicle dealers time to prepare for the new scheme, and import cleaner models.

TIGHTER EMISSION STANDARDS VEHICLES AND MOTORCYCLES

New emission standards for petrol vehicles and motorcycles plying the roads will also be introduced, said Mr Masagos. He said such standards are already in place in places like Europe and Japan, and can be “easily met” by vehicles that are properly maintained.

NEA said new petrol vehicles and motorcycles will have to meet lower limits of carbon monoxide from Apr 1, 2018. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon limits will be introduced for all petrol vehicles and motorcycles plying the roads from next year.

NEA said hydrocarbon is a precursor to ozone, and both carbon monoxide and ozone are known to cause nausea and affect respiratory functions. The revised standards are expected to reduce CO emissions by 55 per cent, and hydrocarbon emissions by half.

ENHANCED EARLY TURNOVER SCHEME

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced the extension of the Early Turnover Scheme in his Budget speech in February. Since it was introduced in 2013, the Scheme has resulted in more than 27,000 older diesel vehicles being replaced with less pollutive ones.

Mr Heng said the scheme will be extended until Jul 31, 2019, to encourage owners of the older and more pollutive Euro II and III commercial vehicles to replace them for the cleaner Euro VI ones.

Providing more details, Mr Masagos said the scheme will be enhanced by increasing the Certificate of Entitlement bonus for light goods vehicles from the current 13 per cent to 35 per cent.

Mr Masagos said industry feedback and other findings have shown that light goods vehicles are a major contributor of diesel pollution due to their high numbers plying the roads. “We hope that through this, more diesel commercial vehicles and buses will switch to Euro VI models or cleaner electric hybrids or petrol alternatives,” he said.

- CNA/mo


More electric, hybrid buses to ply Singapore’s roads
Channel NewsAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: As part of Singapore’s push towards a more environmentally friendly transport system, more electric and hybrid buses will ply the roads soon, Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng said on Wednesday (Mar 8).

Speaking in Parliament during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate, Mr Ng said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will call tenders to purchase 50 hybrid buses and 60 electric buses this year.

Three bus services will be fully served by electric buses, he added.

A diesel-hybrid bus was first trialled by SBS Transit and Volvo in 2015. Bus operator Go-Ahead Singapore, Shenzhen-based automaker BYD and local distributor S Dreams are currently testing a fully electric bus.

Initial feedback from commuters on the electric buses has been encouraging, Mr Ng said. “While more costly, commuters enjoyed the quieter ride and the bus has been fairly reliable,” he said.

However, a problem with pure-electric technology is that it is not fully proven yet for tropical climates, in part because vehicles consume a lot of energy for air-conditioning, Mr Ng said.

“The electric car sharing and electric taxi trials that LTA launched recently will also help us better understand the application of this technology in our climate,” he said.

LTA said the expansion of the trial will help it better understand the operational challenges that come with the wider deployment of such buses under local tropical weather and traffic conditions.

“We will draw from our experiences in these trials to calibrate our approach to adopting alternative energy buses,” it said.

- CNA/cy


MOT relooking plans on bicycle-sharing: Ng Chee Meng
Channel NewAsia 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Transport will assess the bids tendered for the bicycle-sharing service to serve the Jurong Lake District "carefully", and to see if it will extend it to other towns, amid the emergence of dockless bicycle-sharing systems here.

This was announced by the Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng during the ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday (Mar 8), as he pointed out how mobile technology is reshaping the bicycle-sharing arena.

He said the ministry had studied schemes in cities like London, Paris and New York a few years back, and these are traditional ones with docking stations. It saw the potential, but some Government subsidy would be needed, so time was taken to work out how to fund this. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) eventually put out the tender last year, he added.

However, he acknowledged Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng's observation on the emergence of dockless bicycle-sharing systems provided by companies such as Ofo and Obike. According to media reports, Chinese company Ofo launched 1,000 bikes in areas such as Punggol, West Coast and the city area last month, while Singapore-based Obike has a few thousand bicycles around the island.

"These dockless systems allow users to hire and return a shared bicycle at any location. There are obvious advantages: Lower infrastructure costs, more convenience. The downside, however, is indiscriminate parking," Mr Ng said.

"It is still not clear yet whether these new systems or the traditional ones will work better for Singapore."

- CNA/kk


National bike sharing plan could come to a halt
Danson Cheong, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

The brakes could be applied on a planned national bicycle sharing scheme, in light of the recent emergence of private firms that offer similar services.

Second Transport Minister Ng Chee Meng yesterday said the Government is assessing whether to go ahead with the scheme. He told the House the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is carefully studying bids for the bike share tender, which was called last year.

"We will also assess whether to proceed with our plans and whether to extend them to other towns like Ang Mo Kio, given that ofo and Obike are already rolling out their services independently of LTA's tender," he said.

In the first two months of the year, ofo and Obike have made thousands of bikes available for rent around the island. Both companies have said they plan to expand rapidly.

Their systems do not require users to return the machines at fixed stations - a standard feature of bike-share schemes worldwide. Instead, users unlock the bikes with their mobile phones and can return them at any bicycle parking area.

The eventual fleet size of both players is projected to dwarf that of the LTA, which is slated to launch by the end of this year with a fleet of about 2,330 bicycles in Jurong Lake District, Marina Bay, Tampines and Pasir Ris. The national scheme is expected to follow the traditional bike-share model, where users have to rent and return bikes at more than 210 specialised docking stations.

The emergence of Obike and ofo prompted Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC) to ask what impact the private companies will have on the national bike sharing scheme.

Replying during the debate on the Transport Ministry's budget, Mr Ng said the schemes offered by the private players offer advantages, such as lower infrastructure costs and more convenience. However, they also carry the potential downside of indiscriminate parking. "It is still not clear yet whether these new systems or the traditional ones will work better for Singapore," he said.

During the debate, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan also outlined plans for Singapore to go car-lite by 2030, and to make walking, cycling and taking public transport "easier and more enjoyable for everyone". He announced that Tampines would be the second model walking and cycling town after Ang Mo Kio.

Trunk cycling routes connecting Tampines to neighbouring towns, and to workplaces such as Changi Business Park and Singapore Expo, will be built, he said. He added that road crossings will be improved, footpaths widened, and areas around bus stops redesigned to boost safety.

"We are determined to make cycling and the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs) pleasant and safe," said Mr Khaw.

This issue of safety, particularly that of pedestrians on footpaths, was flagged by three MPs - Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten), Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) and Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan.

Mr Tan said footpaths should "always be sufficiently wide" to allow for safe shared use between cyclists and pedestrians. In response, Mr Ng said the LTA will widen narrow footpaths with high foot traffic, from current widths of 1.5m or less to at least 1.8m. He added that the LTA would bolster its enforcement efforts against errant cyclists and PMD users, using CCTVs and body cameras.

"We need the cooperation of all users in order to make shared spaces safe. We need to develop a culture of gracious sharing, through education efforts," he said.


Higher emission standards for petrol vehicles, motorbikes from next April
NEO CHAI CHIN Today Online 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Petrol vehicles and motorcycles in Singapore will have to meet higher exhaust emission standards from April next year, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8).

The move, alongside other vehicle-related announcements made earlier by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech, is to help Singapore achieve its air quality targets for 2020.

Petrol vehicles that are properly maintained will be able to “easily” meet the revised standards, Mr Masagos assured at his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate. The new standards are meant to curb excessive emissions that are due to vehicle defects or poor maintenance.

Emission standards for diesel vehicles were already tightened in January 2014, and the new standards for petrol vehicles will be similar to those that are in place in Europe and Japan, said Mr Masagos.

Vehicles are the second-largest contributor of greenhouse gases here, after industry.

Currently, the exhaust emission standards for petrol vehicles and motorcycles only specify limits for carbon monoxide emissions. From April 1, 2018, carbon monoxide limits will be lowered for newer petrol vehicles (registered from Jan 1, 2001, and from April 1, 2014) and motorcycles (registered from Oct 1, 2014).

New hydrocarbon limits will be introduced for all petrol vehicles and most motorcycles.

The revised standards are expected to reduce carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions from the affected vehicles by more than 50 per cent.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said hydrocarbons are a precursor to ozone, and carbon monoxide and ozone are known to cause nausea and affect respiratory function.

A new high idle test and lambda measurement will be introduced for newer petrol vehicles (registered from April 1, 2014, and excluding motorcycles) to detect defective components such as sensors and catalysts that could result in higher emissions.

The high idle test requires engine speed to be at least 2,000 revolutions per minute during inspection, while the lambda test measures the quantity of intake air divided by the theoretical air requirement of the engine.

Earlier vehicle-related changes announced by Mr Heng were: The restructuring of diesel taxes, replacement of the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme with the Vehicle

Emissions Scheme to account for four other pollutants besides carbon dioxide; and extension of the Early Turnover Scheme.

The Early Turnover Scheme will be extended for two years from August, for Euro II and III diesel commercial vehicles that turn over to Euro VI and equivalent models.

While Singapore has achieved carbon monoxide levels below World Health Organisation guidelines, it has to do more for ozone, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter.

During the debate, Members of Parliament including Dr Chia Shi-lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC ) and Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh expressed concerns about air quality and pollution.

Associate Professor Goh, in particular, highlighted bus commuters’ exposure to ultra-fine particles. Researchers from the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology found a “two-way bus journey five days a week could lead to a commuter inhaling about 3.5 times more tiny pollutant particles than at ambient level”, he said.

The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources has also trained its sights on the industry sector, the country’s largest energy consumer (more than 50 per cent of the total) and contributor of greenhouse gas emissions (more than 60 per cent).

The Energy Conservation Act will be enhanced this year. Larger industrial facilities will be required to submit a monitoring plan for the NEA’s approval, and an enhanced greenhouse gas emissions report. Robust emissions data will be a cornerstone of a carbon pricing regime, which the Government intends to implement as a carbon tax from 2019.


Bigger-scale trials on electric, hybrid buses to be held in next few years
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 8 Mar 17;

SINGAPORE — Following “encouraging” feedback from earlier tests, the Government will rev up its trials on electric and hybrid buses, and three bus services will be served wholly by electric buses, Second Transport Minister Ng Chee Meng announced in Parliament on Wednesday (March 8).

Bigger-scale trials will be mounted in the next few years, and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will call tenders to procure 60 electric buses and 50 hybrid ones this year, he added.

These trials will allow a deeper understanding of the operational challenges that a wider deployment of such buses may bring, under local weather and traffic conditions, the LTA said in a press statement.

While carrying a higher price tag, these buses are less pollutive and make for a more comfortable ride for bus captains and commuters.

The outcomes of the trials will be used to calibrate the approach towards adopting buses that run on alternative energy sources, the LTA added.

Mr Ng said that the Republic has already been shifting towards a more environmentally-friendly fleet, with models that meet tighter emission standards. “But no emission is better than low emissions,” he noted.

As part of a continuing trial involving Go-Ahead Singapore, China-based automaker BYD and its local distributor S Dreams, an electric K9 bus had been trialled on Service 17 and is being tested on Service 119 now, with “encouraging” initial feedback. In 2015, SBS Transit and Volvo also conducted a diesel-hybrid bus trial.

Meanwhile, the Republic is pressing on with other efforts on the electric vehicle front. Last September, HDT Singapore Taxis made its foray with the country’s first fully electric fleet of cabs. It will roll out 100 electric cabs progressively by the middle of this year in an eight-year trial.

By 2020, 1,000 shared electric vehicles will also fan out across all Housing and Development Board towns, as part of a car-sharing initiative announced last June.

BlueSG, a subsidiary of the Bollore Group, which runs the world’s largest fully electric car-sharing programme, will develop and operate the 10-year programme. The first stable of 125 electric vehicles and 250 charging points will be rolled out by the second half of this year.

Meanwhile, the installation of the common fleet management system across the Republic’s bus network will be completed by this month. It gives operators live updates on the location of each bus and arrival times, among other things, raising the efficiency of operations.

As for self-driving vehicles, trials began at one-north in 2015 and four organisations are testing the vehicles there now. Efforts are also under way to develop self-driving buses.

Other efforts include agreements inked in January between the Transport Ministry and PSA Corporation, and automotive firms Scania and Toyota Tsusho, to develop and test solutions for autonomous truck platooning. This involves a manned truck leading a convoy of driverless ones that will transport containers from one port terminal to another.

The authorities also announced last October that they were exploring how to develop self-driving multipurpose utility vehicles that could be designed for purposes such as road sweeping.

Along with truck platooning, this is expected to cut the need for manpower and free road space during peak hours by deploying these autonomous systems at night, for instance.


Diesel vehicles may be on the way out
Christopher Tan, The Straits Times AsiaOne 9 Mar 17;

Motor industry players and experts reckon the days of diesel vehicles are numbered here.

They were reacting to news of a new Vehicular Emissions Scheme announced by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

The scheme will be far stricter than the current Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme.

Besides carbon dioxide emission, it will include four other pollutants, namely hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Mr Neo Nam Heng, chairman of diversified motor and taxi group Prime, said: "This new scheme will have a great impact on car prices. And it will kick out diesel cars."

Dr Park Byung Joon, a transport expert at UniSIM, said: "We're doing what several other countries are doing - we don't want diesel to be around any more."

He noted that diesel engines are "fundamentally dirtier", and vehicle manufacturers have had to "do a lot" to make them acceptable.

In the wake of the Volkswagen emission cheating scandal in late 2015, several countries started re-examining their stand on diesel.

But even before this, studies had already shown that cases of respiratory problems such as childhood asthma had been creeping up in some places, including Germany, where the share of diesel cars was as high as 60 per cent.

This share is forecast to plunge to below 40 per cent this year in the wake of the VW scandal.

Cities such as Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens have also vowed to ban diesel vehicles altogether from 2025.

Mr Allan Loi, a research associate at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore, said the new scheme "should be able to encourage the adoption of cleaner cars".

He added that diesel cars - as well as diesel taxis - will "slowly be phased out".

Under the new scheme, most if not all diesel cars today will attract a tax surcharge of at least $10,000.

Diesel taxis face a penalty of up to $30,000.

Observers said this was why cab operators had started switching to petrol-electric hybrids.

About the new VES

The new Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) will cover four additional pollutants: hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Vehicles will fall into one of five bands - two surcharge bands, two rebate bands and a neutral band - based on their emissions and worst-performing pollutant.

Rebates and surcharges are either $10,000 or $20,000 for cars, and $15,000 or $30,000 for taxis.

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