Forum: Setting the stage for the switch to electric cars

Cars and vehicles on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) near Bedok Reservoir Road.
Cars and vehicles on the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) near Bedok Reservoir Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

That the Government intends to promote the switch to electric vehicles is good (Securing Singapore in the face of climate change, ensuring fiscal sustainability, Feb 20).

Preparation to get it right needs to start now.

First, the infrastructure needs to be improved. The token few spaces equipped with charging points will be severely insufficient as the fleet of electric vehicles grows. The electrical grid also needs to be improved so that charging time is reduced significantly.

The specifications of cables, charging points and the right gear for charging also need to be made known and strictly adhered to.

Otherwise, we might face the same issues we had with personal mobility devices, including fires that resulted from substandard batteries and charging points.

Without strict enforcement, people may go cheap and get substandard equipment, which would endanger fellow citizens.

Each manufacturer should also follow the same specifications.

Second, we need to ensure that the use of electric cars actually brings about a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuel vehicles.

Current battery production has a very significant carbon footprint, which needs to be reduced. The quality of the batteries needs to be improved - to attain less weight and yet greater capacity. We cannot have expensive vehicles that constantly need to stop to charge.

Third, the tax incentives need to be real. For example, the current Vehicular Emissions Scheme actually penalises buyers for choosing vehicles with lower emissions. While it may appear that buyers are given a rebate upfront, this rebate is incorporated into the selling price and, upon scrapping the vehicle, you have to pay back half of the rebate, which means you get less money back for your car.

If this is also the case with the tax incentives for electric cars, then there are no real savings and buyers will avoid such vehicles.

Right now, electric vehicles fall under a higher rebate, but the scrap value is lower as a result, so the actual depreciation is higher.

The cost of charging should also be reduced so that electric vehicles can go from being the preserve of the wealthy to being truly vehicles for the masses. Currently, electric vehicles cost more than conventional choices.

In its drive to phase out internal combustion engines, the Government must give users a real reason to shift to electric cars.

Peter Loon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2020, with the headline 'Setting the stage for the switch to electric cars'. Subscribe