SINGAPORE - Companies that provide electric vehicle (EV) charging services to the public will have to obtain a three-year licence, under a Bill that Parliament passed on Wednesday.
In all, 12 MPs spoke during the debate on the Electric Vehicle Charging Bill, which is meant to ensure that EV chargers are safe to use and that the charging network is reliable, and to promote the accessibility of EV chargers by mandating a minimum provision of charging points at certain developments.
Transport Minister S. Iswaran said Singapore needs to strengthen the regulation of the EV charging infrastructure as the country ramps up its charging network and encourages more motorists to go electric.
He described the Bill as “a milestone in Singapore’s quest for a sustainable land transport system”.
It will give the Land Transport Authority powers to, among other things, regulate the entire cycle of EV chargers and impose a licensing regime on operators.
The new law will also lower the threshold required to pass a resolution to install EV chargers at strata-titled developments.
Mr Edward Chia (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) and Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) asked about the take-up of the EV Common Charger Grant since it was introduced in July 2021.
The grant pays for half of the various costs involved in installing EV chargers. It will be available until Dec 31, 2023 or when it has co-funded 2,000 chargers.
To date, more than 200 chargers at over 80 condominiums have been co-funded under the grant, with another 30 applications pending review, Mr Iswaran said.
He added that the LTA and Building and Construction Authority will develop guides to help condo residents with the grant application, noting that the lack of knowledge of the process has been a challenge.
Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang) and Workers’ Party (WP) MP Dennis Tan (Hougang) asked if the Government could set a more ambitious target for the number of chargers, to encourage higher EV adoption.
There are now over 3,600 charging points, with another 12,000 to be installed across all Housing Board carparks by 2025. Singapore plans to roll out 60,000 charging points islandwide by 2030.
Mr Iswaran said the focus to put in 12,000 charging points by 2025 was meant to allow the Government to act fast while avoiding some of the costlier investments like upgrading substations during this phase of the EV adoption.
He added that as the state of technology and EV adoption rate are still evolving, driving and charging habits have yet to be normalised.
“We want to deploy charging infrastructure quickly to support EV adoption, and the data we gather from this adoption will inform how we want to go further. And we may not need to wait till 2025 because if the data comes earlier and the patterns are more discernible, then we will have to adjust accordingly,” he said.
Mr Yip, Mr Chia and Ms Yeo Wan Ling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) raised the need to prevent and deter hogging as well as inappropriate use of EV charging spaces.
Ms Yeo asked what the norm should be for EV owners sharing such spaces, while Mr Yip wanted to know if there are penalties for motorists who park in spaces reserved for EVs, and if there can be formal codes of conduct to encourage considerate behaviour for EV charging.
Mr Iswaran said it is already an offence for non-EVs to park in an EV charging space in HDB carparks. But enforcement aside, he said education and time are needed to develop a culture of responsible and gracious behaviour.
MPs also called for more incentives to promote greater EV adoption. Mr Don Wee (Chua Chu Kang GRC) asked if the EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI) will be extended beyond December 2023, to which Mr Iswaran replied that the scheme is being reviewed.
The scheme gives EV buyers a rebate of up to $20,000 on vehicle taxes, to offset the higher upfront cost of an EV when compared with a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) alternative.
Mr Wee asked if the certificate of entitlement (COE) system could be modified to set up a separate category for EVs, to encourage more to make the switch.
WP’s Associate Professor Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) mooted giving a 10 per cent discount on COE premiums for EVs, and creating a separate COE category for electric private-hire cars.
Mr Iswaran said creating a separate COE category for EVs would mean taking certificates from the other categories, thus further constraining the supply of COEs. This would introduce volatility to the system and potentially lead to higher prices, he added.
It would also raise the question of how much supply to allocate to this new category, and what is the basis for it, he said.
Mr Iswaran noted that the core objective of the COE system is to limit vehicle population.
“This is the case for all vehicles, and an electric vehicle is a vehicle,” he said, adding that it is also not good policy to foist too many objectives on a single policy tool.
Instead, he said the Government directly incentivises EV adoption through the EEAI and the enhanced Vehicular Emissions Scheme. An EV buyer can receive up to $45,000 in rebates.
Prof Lim also asked that if the LTA stops issuing COEs for ICE vehicles after 2030, “would it ultimately be equivalent to issuing a specialised category of EV COEs, which will apply to all cars after 2030?”
Mr Iswaran explained that there is a “qualitative difference” between the Government’s plan beyond 2030 and Prof Lim’s proposal, which would “deconstruct the current COE allocation and quota and create new elements”.
“What we have said is from 2030, we will want Singapore to move towards cleaner energy vehicles,” Mr Iswaran said. “And therefore, all cars will have to be either electric, or you will have hybrids, or you may have other new clean energy vehicle sources. But they are all treated the same.”
He added: “When you create more segmentation in the market, reduce the supply to each category, the inevitable consequence must be at least volatility and, potentially, and certainly in the kind of environment we’re in where demand is strong, higher prices, and that might actually end up frustrating the very objective of the member’s proposal.”