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Challenges Facing Electric Cars

3 min read
If the electric car is touted as the future of motoring, why aren’t consumers taking to it in droves? What are the obstacles preventing it from becoming the vehicle of choice?

The electric vehicle (EV) market in Singapore has been slowly but steadily increasing, from a mere one car in 2015 to 1,125 in January 2020. Even then, EVs make up less than 1% of the car population here. The push for EVs in a bid to address climate change, decarbonisation and achieving better air quality is highly commendable. However, there remain certain factors that still concern consumers and prevent them from taking to EVs en masse.

Affordability remains a sticky issue, with the majority of EVs here priced at the high end of the spectrum. Although the technology isn’t that new, the cost to produce EVs is still pretty high. And even though the cost of batteries is steadily falling, this hasn’t translated to cheaper cars. Instead, car manufacturers have decided to put larger and larger batteries in their EVs, keeping EV prices at largely the same level or higher. More affordable EVs such as the Renault Zoe and Hyundai Kona Electric, which are available in Singapore, are still priced higher than mainstream cars with similar specs.

As battery technology improves, the EV market is expected to grow in the near future. However, the problem of what to do with discarded batteries once EVs are off the road presents an environmental challenge. Recycling the batteries remains problematic and tedious. A study shows that these discarded batteries are at risk of thermal runaway, which means they have the potential to burn up or even explode. Imagine landfills of used batteries exploding! The industry is taking note and finding solutions. Toyota, for instance, has launched an initiative to pair old EV batteries with solar panels to power 7-Eleven stores in Japan. Other would-be solutions are being trialled, so the EV industry remains hopeful.

Charging Station
Getting the infrastructure ready for the EV revolution is a challenge that the Singapore government is meeting admirably. Concerns regarding enough charging stations for normal and fast-charging options have slowly abated with the setting up of even more stations under players such as Shell, Greenlots, SP Group, Red Dot Power, and Blue SG, among others. However, there have been comments about the need to efficiently manage these stations, and have ready information on their location and availability.

Having such a consolidated platform would be ideal, but getting so many different players to collaborate may be a challenge.

For consumers, the idea of having more charging stations is welcome; however, accessibility is the more pertinent issue. Undoubtedly, drivers would prefer charging their EVs at home. This works for people living in landed properties, but impossible for high-rise flat dwellers. As the majority of Singaporeans reside in high-rise apartments, this is preventing consumers here from switching to an EV. If consumers have the option for both home and island-wide charging of their EVs, the take-up rate is likely to improve.

The good thing is that the government is on board with the EV revolution, and is offering incentives for consumers to purchase such cars — it recently announced upfront rebates to make EVs more attractive to buyers. With more such developments on the regulatory side, plus improvements on the issues mentioned earlier on the manufacturing side, the EV boom should occur sooner rather than later.