Surge in electric vehicle sales amid tax rebates, emission rules

Population up 39% in first 7 months of the year, led by jump in commercial vehicles

Motor companies, which have mostly been reluctant to import electric models until recently, said they are encouraged by the trend of rising electric vehicle (EV) sales. BMW recently launched the iX3 (above), an EV based on its X3 compact sport utilit
Motor companies, which have mostly been reluctant to import electric models until recently, said they are encouraged by the trend of rising electric vehicle (EV) sales. BMW recently launched the iX3 (above), an EV based on its X3 compact sport utility vehicle.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Electric vehicles (EVs) have charged forward in Singapore, fuelled partly by more generous tax incentives and stricter emission rules.

According to the Land Transport Authority, the EV population accelerated by 39 per cent to 1,936 units between the end of last year and the end of last month.

Commercial vehicles led the surge, with a 141 per cent expansion to 234 units. This was on the back of a three-year scheme that accords buyers of electric light commercial vehicles a cash rebate of $30,000.

At the same time, diesel commercial vehicles are slapped with a $10,000 tax surcharge.

Passenger cars followed with a 35 per cent jump to 1,643 units, also on the back of a registration tax offset of up to $25,000.

But the number of battery-powered taxis shrank - from 32 units to just four. This was largely because HDT, which operated a fleet of electric BYD cabs, ceased operations late last year.

The EV population growth is expected to gain further speed when fresh incentives and more vehicle models are introduced next year, and as the charging infrastructure continues to be beefed up.

Motor companies, which have mostly been reluctant to import electric models until recently, said they are encouraged by the trend.

EVs still account for less than 0.2 per cent of Singapore's entire vehicle population of around 984,000.

A spokesman for BMW, which was among the first to introduce EVs here back in 2014 with the i3, said that while adoption has been slow, things will change "in the next 12 to 18 months". Increased government support, an expanding charging infrastructure and a wider range of fully electric vehicles will give sales a jolt, she said.

"We believe EV adoption is set to increase at a faster rate than it has in the past," she added. "A recent survey by BMW Group Asia showed that 22 per cent of respondents were looking to purchase an EV as their next vehicle."

BMW recently launched the iX3, an EV based on its X3 compact sport utility vehicle. The company is poised to introduce two more over the next six months - the iX full-sized SUV and i4 saloon.

A spokesman for MG, which is the best-selling EV brand here, also expects the EV adoption rate to pick up speed in the coming years.

"MG is proud to be the leading EV brand in Singapore," she said. "We continue to receive strong inquiries from customers keen to switch to EVs."

Mr Ng Choon Wee, commercial director of Komoco Motors, said it is fielding more inquiries, too. The Hyundai agent has two EVs for sale - the Ioniq Electric and Kona Electric - with the Ioniq 5 joining them soon. "Compared with last year, the sale of Hyundai electric vehicles has increased by close to five times," Mr Ng added.

In the first seven months of this year, the South Korean brand registered 34 electric cars in Singapore - up from seven for the whole of last year.

Singapore aims to have all vehicles here running on "cleaner energy" by 2040. From 2030, new cars running fully on fossil fuels will not be allowed to be registered.

Aside from doling out tax incentives to nudge people towards EVs, the Government has been raising fuel duties and rolling out higher surcharges for vehicles with poorer emission levels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2021, with the headline 'Surge in electric vehicle sales amid tax rebates, emission rules'. Subscribe