Tesla boss calls PM Lee over CO2 levy

Tesla boss Elon Musk has contacted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the case of an electric Model S car that was given a $15,000 carbon tax surcharge in Singapore.

In a tweet last Friday evening, Mr Musk said he had spoken to PM Lee, and "he said he would investigate the situation".

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office yesterday confirmed the conversation took place, and said various agencies were looking into it.

 
 
 

She added that it was too early to say how things will pan out.

During his trip to the US early last month, Mr Lee met leading tech honchos, including Mr Musk.

He wrote in a Facebook post: "We talked about new technologies and global trends, and Singapore's Smart Nation ideas. Elon Musk gave me a brief but exhilarating ride in the Tesla Model S P90D."

The P90D is a high-performance variant of the electric Model S, and is similar to the car that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) imposed a $15,000 surcharge on, based on its performance in a carbon emissions test. It is the first electric car here to face the surcharge.

Various other electric or part-electric cars here are accorded tax rebates of up to $30,000.

Several countries also consider the Tesla Model S as environmentally-friendly, and grant its buyers various forms of tax breaks.

The owner of the Singapore car, Mr Joe Nguyen, had posted online about the carbon surcharge, as well as the length of time - seven months - it took for the vehicle to be approved and registered.

Mr Nguyen, 44, a senior vice-president at an Internet research firm, said "it's awesome" that Mr Musk had contacted PM Lee.

"I guess he met the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago," he said. "Hopefully, something good comes out of it."

Member of Parliament Ong Teng Koon, who made a case for electric vehicles in Parliament in January, said given the need to reduce carbon emissions, Singapore should put greater focus on electric vehicles, since these vehicles typically have lower CO2 emissions (measured at the power station) than their conventional counterparts.

"From the Government's perspective, this is a rare carbon emissions reduction policy where the abatement cost would be voluntarily borne by consumers... rather than being paid for by the Government."

The LTA and Transport Ministry were not available for comment yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Tesla boss calls PM Lee over CO2 levy'. Print Edition | Subscribe