Vision to make electric cars popular by 2050

Electric vehicles could make up as much as 30 per cent to 50 per cent of Singapore's motor population by 2050, said a research body from Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

This could cut pollution from vehicles - one of the biggest emission contributors - by as much as 30 per cent and reduce the nation's dependence on transport fuels.

This vision was spelt out in an electro-mobility road map unveiled by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) yesterday at the Energy Innovation forum.

The road map was developed by the NTU Energy Research Institute, which was engaged by the Land Transport Authority (LTA). The plan looks at the current state of technology, identifies research and development priorities, and guides government policies.

The road map indicated that taxi and bus fleets, while accounting for only about 3 per cent and 2 per cent of the total vehicle population respectively, have the biggest potential in the electrification drive.

"Both public buses and taxis have depots and servicing stations where you can take care of their charging needs," said Professor Subodh Mhaisalkar, executive director of the research institute. "Over a period of time, if you have multiple charging stations - purely from an economies of scale perspective - if you break it down to the cost of the infrastructure per electric vehicle, it would make business sense."

While there are only 120 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles here, based on LTA data, Prof Subodh believes that as the technology matures by 2050, motorists will be incentivised to buy such green cars.

Price is one key reason for the low take-up now, and his team believes that in the next five years, the cost of electric vehicle batteries will fall by about 30 per cent, making the cars cheaper. While most electric vehicles today need about eight hours to be fully charged, this will become more efficient, he said.

The NTU research group also said government policies could influence motorists to buy such vehicles, such as by bringing down the additional registration fee and excluding the car's battery from the vehicle's open market value.

As more buy electric vehicles, the private sector will be encouraged to build more charging stations, easing owners' fears of running out of power, Prof Subodh said.

Last month, the Government also announced it would be setting up 2,000 charging points to support an islandwide electric-car sharing programme.

Besides the electro-mobility road map, the NCCS and NRF unveiled road maps for solid waste management and industry energy efficiency. The former identifies research areas such as the use of robotic solutions for waste collection and auto- sorting technologies, while the latter highlights potential savings in energy use in sectors such as petrochemicals and semiconductors.

Yesterday, the Energy Market Authority announced it had awarded $15 million in research grants to six projects on cost-effective energy storage innovations. Among them is the conversion of natural gas into a solidified form, a storage solution whose cost is about half that of conventional compressed natural gas (CNG) storage technology.

National University of Singapore Assistant Professor Praveen Linga, the project's principal investigator, said: "Also, CNG is stored in high-pressure cylinders and is explosive. But it is always safe in a solidified form."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2016, with the headline 'Vision to make electric cars popular by 2050'. Print Edition | Subscribe