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The Electric Vehicle Revolution

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What are the top concerns deterring car owners from switching to an electric vehicle?

Sustainability seems to be the buzzword in recent years, and the motoring scene has seen a significant shift in developing vehicles that are greener and friendlier to Mother Earth. Leading this charge is the electric car (EV) revolution.

Although the number of car manufacturers jumping on the electrification bandwagon has grown and consumers have a lot more choices than before, consumers here are still somewhat hesitant about switching over to an EV. Let’s explore some of these concerns.

Cost concerns are proving to be a major stumbling block for many would-be EV buyers. The initial outlay for an EV in Singapore is much more than one with an internal combustion engine (ICE). The cost of producing an EV is higher than that for a like-for-like ICE car, and the high taxes here add on to an EV’s eventual cost. These factors make the cost of an EV here easily 30–40% more than an ICE car of a similar class.

However, EV technology is bound to improve, and that could translate to more affordable EVs down the road. And to make EVs more affordable, the Singapore government has recently introduced incentives to decrease the cost differential between EVs and ICEs. In his budget speech on 16 Feb 2021, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed new measures to lower the Additional Registration Fee (ARF) floor from S$5,000 to zero for EVs from January 2022–December 2023. This move will allow EV buyers to maximise the rebates from the Electric Vehicle Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI), which spells savings of up to S$45,000! There are also plans to revise road tax bands to make road taxes for EVs more comparable to ICEs; details for this will be revealed further down the road.

The practical concern of a typical driver would be availability, accessibility and time. Finding an available charging station easily and having to wait for less than an hour to charge up would be real plus points for conversion to EVs. Presently, there are fewer than 2,000 public EV charging stations in Singapore, and only a minority have the 50kW DC fast chargers that can charge an EV car from 0–80% in about half an hour. This is not adequate to sustain an expected growth in EV car ownership, and is a real concern for would-be EV owners. Congestion issues, especially during peak periods, could be a real problem if there aren’t enough fast charging stations to cope with the demand, so that’s another area to look into.

The good news is that the EV charging infrastructure here is set to expand; the number of charging stations at public car parks and private premises is expected to reach 60,000 by 2030. As announced in Mr Heng’s budget speech, the authorities will also allocate S$30 million over the next five years for EV-related initiatives, such as improving charging provision at private premises.

There are sure to be teething issues along the way; with such a demanding timeline, most consumers are likely to adopt a wait-and-see approach before committing to an EV. ICE car owners already enjoy a healthy network of refuelling stations, and planning a similarly dependable network of charging points for EV owners will present a real challenge, working from the ground up.

With EVs being relatively new to buyers here, there are bound to be concerns. Motorists will want to know how far an EV can be driven before it runs out of power, and whether the battery is reliable or even safe to use. News coverage of negative events — such as a spike in EVs running out of charge on UK roads, and a China-made Tesla Model 3 exploding in a residential parking garage in Shanghai — is not helping the EV cause, either.

Putting things in perspective, unless you are driving in Malaysia, chances of you running out of juice is highly unlikely. Most drivers here commute to and from work and go on weekend outings, so there aren’t many road stretches here that are deserted enough for a driver to be stranded on. As for battery safety, if companies such as Tesla can still be flagged for possible design flaws or quality issues, we have to ensure that strict regulations are in place so that safety is never compromised.

If the concerns and issues of the car buyer are ironed out, we may see even more folks getting on board the EV revolution. Changing mindsets is not an easy task and will surely take time, but the signs are encouraging!