Free parking for electric cars would make them more attractive to Singaporeans

That's one way to spur sales of greener vehicles

Vehicles heading towards the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry at Havelock Road on 12 June 2014. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Vehicles heading towards the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry at Havelock Road on 12 June 2014. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Free parking, power charging and entry through Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantries would make electric cars more attractive to Singaporeans.

A conference yesterday on the future of transportation heard how similar measures boosted the take-up of "greener" vehicles in other countries.

Mr Tormod Endresen, Norway's ambassador to Singapore, said financial and other incentives resulted in a flood of drivers choosing electric cars in his home country.

Electric cars are better for the environment than conventional cars that use fossil fuels, partly because electric cars cause less pollution.

However, The Straits Times' senior transport correspondent Christopher Tan, who was one of the panellists, said: "If the power generated for the electric car is clean, then the car is clean. But if the power (used to charge the car) is generated by fossil fuels, then the argument becomes a lot weaker."

Other experts also said that beyond cost considerations, electric cars may need to be desirable in other ways, and it is essential to have reliable and accessible infrastructure to support them.

Mr Khoo Lin Zhuang, senior vice-president of Singapore-based firm Greenlots, which installs charging points for vehicles, said: "In California, electric car drivers are allowed to use high-occupancy lanes to beat traffic congestion, which makes the vehicles more attractive.

"For Singapore, most of the population live in high-rise buildings, so one challenge would be who pays for the charging infrastructure."

Mr Tan pointed to another hurdle for Singapore: "From the policy point of view, it's difficult for the Government to offer any kind of subsidy to private cars. Whether they are electric or powered by gas or diesel, they're seen as luxury items, so to subsidise cars in any way is going to be contentious."

Most experts agreed that electric vehicles could be a key plank in the fight against climate change.

Nanyang Technological University president Bertil Andersson said: "It's pressing for the world to reduce carbon emissions and use renewable energy. Electric cars running on batteries have less emissions and the development of electric mobility can also create new industries."

The Land Transport Authority has said that it plans to develop a technology road map to assess the advantages and challenges of using electric vehicles, as well as how to encourage their adoption if there are significant benefits to Singapore.

Yesterday's Future of Mobility International Conference was held at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre and organised by NTU and carmaker BMW Asia. It drew industry, government and university representatives from seven countries, including South Korea and Germany.

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