Petir Explains: Why the passing of a recent Bill will make S’pore’s future electric

We all already see electric vehicles (EVs) on Singapore’s roads and rail lines these days even when there aren’t that many obviously to begin with — a total of 5,779 fully-electric cars were registered locally as of October 2022.

But the number is growing — fast.

It’s easy to see why: EVs are so much quieter than your standard internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles which run on petrol and fuel. They don’t puff out little clouds of pollutants. And they’re safe to drive, even through Singapore’s monsoons.

EVs, in fact, fit in very smoothly on Singapore’s roads and highways, helping us transition towards climate-responsible net-zero emissions by 2050. The Singapore Green Plan has a strong push towards EVs too. In fact, Singapore targets to phase out ICEs totally by 2040, which means that all new car and taxi registrations must be of cleaner-energy models like EVs by 2030.  

Good thing about Parliament passing that Electric Vehicles Charging Bill this Wednesday (Nov 30) then.

“This Electric Vehicles Charging Bill is an important foundation and first step,” said Minister for Transport S Iswaran in Parliament that same day on the need for Singapore having laws and regulations which ensure that EV chargers are fit for purpose.

“It is a milestone in Singapore’s quest for a sustainable land transport system, and in our journey towards net zero emissions by 2050.”

Why the Government’s big-picture shift towards net zero, though? And how exactly will the new Electric Vehicles Charging Bill fit into this more sustainable Singapore of the future? And why now?

Net-zero is a multi-Ministry response  

Climate change is an undisputable global emergency. There is scientific consensus on this, just as its effects have meant (among others) crop famine, more severe storms and higher sea levels. These have a human cost: starvation, population displacement and the collapse of trade and economies.

“Net zero means cutting greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere, by oceans and forests for instance,” states the United Nations on the key way to stabilise the climate change emergency.

This means transforming how the world consumes and produces its materials. In particular, the energy sector is responsible for roughly three-quarters of contemporary greenhouse emissions.

So, replacing combustion-based power, like coal, gas and oil with clean and renewable energy will make for a safer, more climate-secure world.  

Source: MSE Facebook

In Singapore, the Government has introduced net-zero schemes through various Ministries. These include the National Hydrogen Strategy, the Green Finance Action Plan and a carbon tax rate of S$50 to S$80 by 2030. The Government also represented Singapore’s efforts to the world at the United Nations’ climate change conference COP27. It is a growing multi-Ministry response syncing with international efforts and the global sustainability agenda.

Electric vehicles see exponential growth

EVs are important for a net zero emissions Singapore by 2050 here.

“To attain this national target, we must significantly decarbonise the land transport sector, which accounts for about 15 per cent of emissions,” said Minister Iswaran.  

“The electrification of our vehicle population is key to this effort.”

And those 5,779 fully-electric cars registered locally by the middle of this year? They actually represent an overall sector trajectory of exponential growth.

“This year, more than 10 per cent of new light vehicle registrations were EVs, up from 0.3 per cent in 2020. That is a 30-fold increase,” said the Minister.

This is a trend consistent with the previous few years.

There were just two fully-electric cars registered locally in 2011. This number remained consistently low until 2016, when it jumped to 12. Then it jumped to 314 the following year. By 2020, there were a total of 1,217 fully-electric cars on Singapore’s road, and more than double that — 2,942 — in 2021.

Source: Singapore EV Enthusiasts, Facebook

In sum, EVs are here to stay. Especially since advances in technology and economies of scale indicate that they will likely cost the same as ICE vehicles by 2030.

This is thanks to their battery packs, which are a huge construction cost for EVs, becoming cheaper to produce. Where they cost US$1,110 per kilowatt hour at the end of the late 2000s, this cost had reduced 89 per cent to US$137 in 2020.

“As battery pack costs drop to approximately US$104/kWh in 2025 and US$72/kWh in 2030, electric vehicle cost parity with conventional vehicles is likely to occur between 2024–2025 for shorter-range and 2026–2028 for longer-range electric vehicles,” estimates the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an independent government solutions think-tank.

More affordable electric cars and more EV public transport options

And for our local context in particular, government schemes and rebates are making it easier to buy and own EVs.

The enhanced Vehicle Emission Schemes, together with the Electric Vehicle Early Adoption Incentive, save prospective electric car buyers up to S$45,000. Road taxes for average-sized entry level electric cars are now comparable with their ICE counterparts.

In fact, the Government did away with the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) tax on electric cars in 2021.

“Many mass-market electric car buyers still cannot benefit from the full S$45,000 rebate, because there is a minimum payment of S$5,000 for the ARF,” explained then-Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung at the Committee of Supply Debate in March 2021.

“To enable mass-market electric cars to benefit from the full rebate, we will remove the S$5,000 minimum ARF.”

The electrification of Singapore’s overall public transport network is also imminent; the “V” in “EV” afterall stands for “Vehicles”.

This is a significant shift for a nation where public transport is world-class (we’re 4th best globally this year), increasingly popular and so easily accessible by our population.

Most significantly, LTA has committed to a 100 per cent cleaner energy public bus fleet by 2040.

At least half of 15,000 taxis across different service providers are similarly planned for electrification by 2030 too.

Private-hire cars will also go electric by 2030.

(Singapore’s rail network, it must be said, is completely powered with electricity for running all its 488 MRT and 89 LRT trains. This is a huge contributor towards Singapore’s net zero efforts, considering that 3.384 million commuters journeyed on the MRT pre-pandemic in 2019.)

So, with all these rather swift switches towards mass electrification, Singapore will need more charging points for meeting this accelerated demand.

The Electric Vehicles Charging Bill

At present, there are about 3,000 public EV charging points in Singapore. That’s about 50 per cent up from about 1,800 in September 2021.

This number is ramping up, though, to keep pace with how EVs are becoming more affordable and common — the national target is to deploy a total of 60,000 EV charging points all over Singapore by 2030.     

The Government needs to make sure that these points, as well the ones which will eventually follow, are safe, reliable and accessible for Singapore’s EV commuters.

Click here to read more about the Bill.

Sustainable roads a responsibility

Source: LTA

The Electric Vehicles Charging Bill, then, is timely and forward-thinking, and results from long-term Government planning.

It’s comprehensive too, in its build of 60,000 charging points to support Singapore’s net zero target. This also works excellently within the larger context of EVs getting more affordable, popular and advanced.  

Its focus on safety, accessibility and reliability ensure a smooth transition for Singapore during this great green revolution.

With it, the Government is taking yet more action in order to solve the great crisis of our time — and through remarkably elegant rides, no less.  

Cover photo credit: CHUTTERSNAP, Unsplash