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Energising The EV Revolution

4 min read
How renewable energy-related technologies can drive Singapore’s push for adoption of electric vehicles and the phasing out of vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Singapore has set the goal of phasing out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles over the next 20 years. This is part of a bigger plan to make Singapore a more sustainable and environmentally friendly city. Spearheading this strategy is the progressive adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) to eventually replace all ICE vehicles in Singapore. In tandem with this strategy, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has plans to implement and install 28,000 charging points island-wide.

An EV charging point operated by BlueSG.Photo credit: Deoma12

Powering this EV revolution would be a challenge, even in a small country such as Singapore. For EV adoption to be successful, it is vital to ensure enough power supply that will not take a toll on our existing power grid. Fortunately, the wheels have already been set in motion years ago to decentralise Singapore’s power grid by establishing renewables-powered microgrids to take the strain off our power network.

The REIDS-SPORE microgrid, the largest of eight potential microgrids in Singapore, started operating in 2016. The initiative researches ways to employ renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar technologies, to generate green power. The power generated can be stored in batteries or converted into hydrogen for later use.

The REIDS-SPORE microgrid on Pulau Semakau features Singapore’s tallest wind turbine, a solar farm, a battery storage system, and a green hydrogen facility encompassing the fuel’s production, storage and usage. Photo credit: Engie

Working on a smart energy management system, the use of the microgrid is optimised to lower costs and ensure a reliable supply. Once these microgrids are fully tested and optimised, they will ideally be employed in tandem with the main power grid. This bodes well, if everything goes to plan, with supplying Singapore with clean and renewable energy, not to mention furthering Singapore’s green credentials.

One of the innovations to supply-assist the EV power conundrum is having on-site batteries at charging stations. These act as buffers to flatten the power consumption curve, especially during peak periods.

ABB Asia Pacific has developed energy storage systems that are capable of drawing and storing electricity from the grid during low demand periods. This will offset peak period usage and ease the stress on the grid.

Tesla’s Powerwall technology stores excess solar energy during the day, which can be used during day-to-day operations. Having an off-grid battery source like that to complement the existing power grid is an option. Another advantage for off-grid technologies such as the Powerwall is the relative ease of installation that do not need extensive infrastructure work, which is great for users such as landed homeowners here. Though the Powerwall is currently not available here, the future may see its introduction, or maybe something similar, if the upfront cost is attractive and there is enough demand for it.

Tesla’s Powerwall Photo credit: Raysonho

Apart from renewable technology, other innovative technologies can make EV adoption an attractive proposition to car buyers. Smart charging is one such option.

Smart charging enables charging stations to monitor and manage the use of chargers to optimise power consumption. Based on statistics and information on energy usage, the government or operator can identify the ideal periods and timing to provide power to cars without overburdening the power grid. With time-of-use pricing system in place, peak hour charging could come with higher tariffs to discourage use during this period.

Automated ports and ultrafast charging could make EVs even more attractive to own. These automated ports allow EVs to communicate directly with the charger, activating the charging and ending it automatically. This means drivers don’t even have to plug anything physically into their EVs! Presently being tested on buses, the technology could eventually make it to taxi stands and car parks in future.

The introduction of ultrafast charging will help reduce the waiting time significantly, which will resonate with drivers who are always pressed for time. This technology’s ability to provide juice enough for up to 200km worth of range in just five to eight minutes is a real boon to users. Coupled with ever-improving battery technology, this could signal much better performance down the road.

It will be a challenging few years as Singapore embarks on this EV route. But, with advances in technology applicable to using and storing renewable energy and related areas, the journey looks to be an exciting one.