Electric cars given small kick-start with LTA tax revision

Battery-powered Smart two-seaters from Daimler at the electric vehicle test-bed launch, on June 25, 2011.
Battery-powered Smart two-seaters from Daimler at the electric vehicle test-bed launch, on June 25, 2011.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has decided to reduce the carbon emission factor of electric cars by 20 per cent, a move that is likely to improve the commercial viability of these exhaust-free vehicles slightly.

In an announcement yesterday, the LTA said an emission factor for such vehicles will be fixed at 0.4g CO2/watt-hour - down from 0.5g currently.

This factor is to account for the carbon dioxide emitted during the production and distribution of electricity. It will apply for the duration of the Vehicular Emissions Scheme - which rewards or penalises cars according to their CO2 emission levels - from Jan 1 next year (2018) to Dec 31, 2019.

The authority said the factor of 0.4g will also be applied to the extended Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme from July 1 to Dec 31 this year (2017).

The CO2 factor has been a contentious issue among electric car advocates. They argue that no similar factor is taken into account for the production and distribution of petrol, diesel or natural gas.

Electric car owner Joe Nguyen, 45, said the reduced carbon factor is still "silly". He said: "We don't pay more for charging our phones and laptops, do we?"

The IT professional owns a Tesla Model S, which attracted a tax surcharge instead of a rebate. "I'm keeping it... it's the only electric car in the world that had a surcharge."

There are only 132 plug-in hybrid cars, 12 electric cars and 18 electric vans in Singapore - or less than 0.1 per cent of the total vehicle population. But the numbers may rise soon with the new regulations.

BMW has the most number of electrified cars here and it is planning to launch at least five more in the coming months. They are the X5 xDrive40e, 225xe, 330e, 530e and 740Le xDrive.

These are plug-in hybrids - cars which have an internal combustion engine as well as an electric motor that is powered by batteries that are charged via a wall socket - which will benefit from the carbon factor revision.

BMW Group Asia spokesman said: "BMW Group Asia believes that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are the future, especially for a market like Singapore.

"At this time we are currently evaluating the impact of the updated emission factor on our existing and future EVs and PHEVs."

A spokesman for carmaker Renault, which will be introducing an electric model soon, said the revised carbon factor is positive.

It is planning to launch its long-range Zoe soon. The full electric hatchback has a stated range of 400km per charge, and is priced at around $120,000 based on current COE prices.

Renault said even though its Zoe will still qualify for the top tax rebate of $30,000 under the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme and $20,000 under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme, the fixed timeframe announced by the LTA on Friday was useful as it provided certainty for product planning.

Renault said it will also introduce a long-range Kangoo van.