Unpopularity of electric vehicles goes beyond cost: Christopher Tan's reply to Tesla's Elon Musk

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 3 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE - Electric vehicles are unpopular the world over, not only in Singapore - and the reason goes beyond cost, said The Straits Times senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan in a reply on Sunday (June 3) to Mr Elon Musk, chief executive of electric car maker Tesla.

"Their restricted range and limited product choice are two other main reasons," he said, a day after he penned an open letter refuting Mr Musk's comment that the Singapore Government is not supportive of electric cars.

Even Norway, which doles out the heaviest subsidies for electric vehicles, has proposed to pull back on tax incentives on electric cars weighing more than two tonnes, Mr Tan noted.

Mr Tan also said "Singapore is not exactly supportive of any car, regardless of their fuel type".

However, the country still recognises that electric cars are cleaner where they operate, which is why most of them will qualify for tax breaks of up to $20,000, he added.

Mr Tan was responding to Mr Musk's take on the former's open letter. The Tesla chief had earlier replied to an ST tweet, saying: "The results speak for themselves. Singapore is a very prosperous city and yet has very few electric cars.

"Why have policies that promote a combustion vehicle fleet in a dense city environment? In bumper to bumper traffic, each car's exhaust pipes releases poison gases right into the air intake of car behind. This is not healthy."

The issue came under the spotlight after Mr Musk tweeted on May 26 that the Government was not supportive of electric cars.

He was responding to a Twitter user, who had asked him "do something to allow us in Singapore to get a Tesla".

After the tweets went viral, Mr Tan wrote an open letter to explain why Mr Musk could have been mistaken about Singapore.

Mr Tan said that Tesla electric cars belong to a premium segment of the market, beyond what most people can afford.

Tesla cars will also be taxed in the same way as powerful combustion engined-cars, as Singapore adopts a progressive road tax system calculated based on a car's engine displacement or power.

Beyond that, Singapore remains a small and densely populated country, where a high cost is placed on personal transportation.

In addition, most of the electricity generated in Singapore is from natural gas, which is fossil-based, and hence, non-renewable and not emission free.

Tesla chief executive officer Elon Musk unveils the Roadster 2 during a presentation in Hawthorne, California, in November last year.

But other factors also come into play when determining how clean an electric car is, Mr Tan said.

This includes its manufacturing process, how much efficiency its batteries retain over time, how materials for its batteries are mined, and how spent batteries are disposed of.

Hence, it will be up to Tesla to make its electric cars more attractive for the Singapore market, he added.

Already, Singapore is among the few countries in the world with both an electric taxi fleet and an electric car-sharing scheme.

In January, HDT Singapore Taxi applied to add another 800 electric cars to its current fleet of 100, while BlueSG had rolled out its car-sharing scheme in December last year with 80 cars and 32 charging stations.

About 50 Volvo diesel-electric hybrid buses are expected to ply the roads in the second half of the year, as part of the Land Transport Authority's efforts to make public buses more environmentally friendly.

Meanwhile, property developers who erect electric car charging points in their new buildings may also benefit from incentives under the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark scheme.

Singapore wants to go ‘car-lite’, says LTA in response to Elon Musk tweet
CHEN LIN Today Online 5 Jun 18;

SINGAPORE — Responding to Tesla founder Elon Musk’s assertion that Singapore’s policies are not supportive of electric vehicles (EVs), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Tuesday (June 5) that it encourages the adoption of greener and cleaner vehicles such as hybrid buses and electric vehicles.

However, while this is part of its approach to “address emissions from the land transport sector and improve air quality”, the aim is to achieve Singapore’s car-lite vision.

Of the 348 fully-electric cars registered here, seven are registered to private individuals, and there are three Tesla Model S’s on Singapore’s roads, added LTA.

On May 26, American entrepreneur Musk – who is the chief executive officer of electric car maker Tesla – tweeted in response to a netizen asking if he could “allow us in Singapore to get a Tesla”. Mr Musk had written: “We tried, but (the) Singapore government is not supportive of electric vehicles.”

His remark reignited a debate on electric vehicles in Singapore, as netizen Joe Nguyen had said in an online post in 2016 that he had to pay S$15,000 in carbon surcharges for his Tesla car. This was in addition to the seven month wait for his car to be approved and registered here.

It was reported then that the car was subjected to the surcharge based on emission tests. Following the incident, Mr Musk contacted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the Tesla founder said that Mr Lee told him that he would investigate the situation.

The LTA said in its media statement that it has adopted a three-pronged approach to address emissions. This includes promoting the use of green mobility options such as public transport to reduce reliance on private motorised vehicles, improving resource efficiency by managing the growth and use of vehicles, and encouraging the adoption of greener and cleaner vehicles.

The authority has also been working to build new rail lines to improve the reliability of the existing rail network, and enhancing bus services.

The LTA also noted that “EVs are not truly emissions-free, as the power they consume produces emissions at the power station”. However, most EVs are quieter than conventional vehicles and do not have tailpipe emissions, “which makes for a better living environment in a dense city like Singapore”, added LTA.

According to the LTA, there are currently four EV models – which are not Tesla cars – that qualify for the maximum rebate of S$20,000. The rebate on the Additional Registration Fee is offered under the Vehicle Emission Scheme that incentivises the purchase of cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

As part of LTA’s efforts to build a more environmentally friendly bus fleet, a tender was called last December to procure 60 electric buses, and more will be deployed for service by next year. Fifty low-emission diesel hybrid buses will also be rolled out gradually by the second half of this year.

In June 2016, LTA and the Economic Development Board awarded Singapore’s first EV car-sharing programme to BlueSG, which kicked off here last December. The programme will see the firm rolling out a 1,000-strong fleet of shared EVs and install 2,000 charging points by 2020.

HDT Singapore Taxi is also conducting an all-electric trial of 100 electric taxis to determine the feasibility of using the vehicles for its operations, said the LTA.