SINGAPORE - Commuters will be able to catch a ride on one of SMRT's new fully electric taxis as 15 MG5 station wagons decked out in bright green livery hit the roads on Monday (Aug 30).
This is the first batch of 300 China-made electric taxis that will be rolled out here by the end of this year in a reported $30 million deal between SMRT's taxi arm, now called Strides Taxi, and distributor Eurokars.
Temasek-owned SMRT currently operates the third largest cab fleet in Singapore with around 1,780 vehicles, all of which are hybrids.
It plans to fully electrify its taxi fleet by 2026.
When all 300 MG5 electric cabs hit the roads, Strides Taxi is expected to be the taxi operator with the largest fleet of electric vehicles here, SMRT said.
To encourage drivers to take up these greener cabs, which have a range of 300km on a full charge, SMRT said it is working with industry players such as SP Group and Shell to provide discounts on charging.
Early adopters of the MG5 cabs will get free rental and unlimited charging for the first 30 days. They will be able to tap 140 public fast chargers at 80 locations islandwide, and can expect to save about $300 a month in energy costs compared with driving hybrid cabs.
It takes 40 minutes to charge a MG5 taxi to 80 per cent capacity.
Rental for these new electric cabs are comparable with existing hybrid models, said cabby Ban Kum Cheong, 50, who is one of the early adopters.
SMRT said the 300 electric taxis will help to reduce annual carbon emissions by up to 10 tonnes. A fully electric taxi fleet will reduce the taxi operator's annual carbon emissions by 20,000 tonnes.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Amy Khor, who was at the launch event, said cabbies driving electric taxis may have to make adjustments when it comes to charging their vehicles, vehicle maintenance, as well as driving habits.
She added: "I am glad that Strides Taxi has rolled out a package of measures to support these taxi drivers as they make this transition... I want to encourage the other taxi and PHC (private-hire car) operators to also join in this push to go green and be more environmentally friendly, and to electrify their fleets."
Last month, ride-hailing firm Grab began trialling a new service allowing commuters to book rides only on hybrid or electric vehicles.
It is expanding its electric and hybrid vehicle fleet in Singapore through its rental arm GrabRentals, and aims to have a full fleet running on cleaner energy by 2030. Today, about 30 per cent of the private-hire vehicles on Grab's platform here are electric or hybrid vehicles.
Rival Go-Jek also said it will work with its fleet partners to introduce cleaner energy vehicles here. About 30 per cent of its fleet is hybrid or electric vehicles now.
Mr Simon Ngiam, 52, who has been a cabby for seven years, was among those who switched from a hybrid taxi to the new MG5 electric taxi.
He jumped at the opportunity as he has wanted to drive an electric vehicle for a couple of years after his friends in China raved about the experience to him.
With four charging points near his home, charging his new taxi is convenient, and Mr Ngiam said the MG5 is a much smoother drive than the hybrid taxi he drove before.
"Fully electric is the way to go," he said, adding this is his small way of contributing to the environment.