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Should the Govt encourage electric cars?

By Faiming_low on 06 Dec 2016 in Advice

Attached Image Before we start asking what the Government can do to encourage the use of electric vehicles (EVs), we should ask if it should.

The answer is not a clear "yes", because there are still issues to be tackled before we welcome the electric cavalry with open arms.

But it is leaning towards "yes" because of two main reasons.

Firstly, electric cars are more efficient than combustion-engine vehicles.

Generally, they are able to convert 90 percent of energy used into motion, compared to less than 40 percent for fuel-driven cars.

Secondly, they have zero tailpipe emission. So, even if they are charged by electricity produced by fossil fuel power stations, they do not poison the air. If we use them, we move pollution from high-density areas - where people tend to live, work and play - to far-flung industrial areas.

Singapore makes most of its electricity from natural gas, which is a cleaner fuel than the diesel and petrol used by the vast majority of vehicles here. Hence, even if a large proportion of cars here are electrified, it will still result in cleaner air overall.

Ideally, it is best if we generate our power from renewable or nuclear sources. But even if we don't, we are likely to end up with fewer pollutants and less CO2 released into the air - more crucially, the air in high-population areas.

The equation becomes a little stilted when batteries degrade over time. As we have seen in our phones, laptops and notepads, batteries rarely retain their charge as well as they did when new.

It is likely to be the same for EVs. And we are already seeing signs of this worrying degradation, which will result in a drop in efficiency and an increase in carbon footprint.

Warranties by manufacturers or battery-swopping programmes are no good. Batteries are resources, and if you have to replace them because they become spent or degraded sooner than expected, you are going to end up consuming more resources - which is extremely costly financially and environmentally.

Taking all this into consideration, Singapore's measured approach to handing out subsidies for EVs is understandable.

Most electric cars here qualify for a $30,000 rebate on the Additional Registration Fee (ARF, or the main car tax). That's not enough, say EV proponents.

Well, the Government could raise this to $60,000, but even that would not be enough to offset the inherently higher cost of an EV.

So, what will be enough? $100,000? $150,000? Clearly, such hefty grants will be socially unacceptable, especially in a country where nearly 60 per cent of households do not own cars.

Instead of going that way, perhaps policymakers can consider tweaking the road tax structure, which currently penalises many EVs. A car like the BMW i3 is slapped with a road tax that is equivalent to a 2.4-litre petrol car, and a Tesla Model S attracts a levy that is more than 2 1/2 times that of an equally powerful Porsche 911 Carrera S.

This policy is anomalous and should be reviewed.

Non-monetary incentives could be rolled out too. Today, a number of commercial buildings provide priority parking for EVs.

If public parking sites can offer the same, it will go some way towards promoting EV conversion because it is often the small things that make people feel good.

In any case, until EVs become substantially more efficient in a life cycle comparison than the most efficient combustion-engined car, doling out bigger carrots for them will not be kosher.

The following article is written by Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent with The Straits Times and Consulting Editor for motoring monthly Torque.

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Written by Faiming_low
Since young, Fai Ming has always centered his life around cars. In fact his first word was 'car' and not 'mum' or 'dad'. Aren't kids cute?

  • 1
Jamesc Dec 07 2016 10:59 AM

Yes and for those that cannot afford electric cars we should encourage electric scooters.

Watwheels Dec 07 2016 01:23 PM

First we have to look at the infrastructure that supports and supply power to EVs. Is the govt willing to invest in the infrastructure? Or get private investors like energy companies to invest in building the infrastructure? Only when this basic infrastructure and facilities to supply power to EVs is built then we can talk about govt encourage EV. Right now there's...nothing.

Let's move on.

LPPL Dec 07 2016 01:48 PM

Govt is enjoying the tax on fuel so why would they want to hurt their pocket?

Vinceng Dec 07 2016 02:20 PM

Electric cars result in a revenue loss for the government in pettrol excise duties. It is not politically correct to push for electric cars to replace petrol driven cars.

Jq1988 Dec 07 2016 06:36 PM
Yes, electric is better than petrol car
primera38 Dec 08 2016 04:33 PM

Our economy is heavily rely on oil and oil export. Going electric in Singapore is transferring carbon emission from the car to the power station. Unless we are innovative enough to power ourselves without fossil fuel.

Meanmachine Dec 09 2016 11:23 AM

We see thailand already on the move for EV let alone embracing it sooner, Q is Does Sp goes green, Such initiatives must spearhead from the top down, how would it benefit motorists in our congested road?


Im sure a survey can be reached to gather feedbacks, with such consolidation of data, informations and insight, it will go along way for us.


The greenhouse gas ( GHG ) emissions come form transport, let s us harness it and find a way of reduction. I look forward to the implementation , of course our MSCP must be equipped with charging plug and socket for every lots available.


But then EV must not be expensive here as I see it is a mass market vs the petrol guzzlers.

Detach8 Dec 13 2016 12:09 PM

When you say "90 percent of energy" have you considered the efficiency of the power plants? If the power plants are 70 percent efficient in converting natural gas to electricity, and the car is 90 percent efficient in converting electricity to kinetic motion, that is only 90% x 70% = 63% efficient. Add that to the cost and environmental impact of producing batteries? 

  • 1
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