The electric revolution is here. But should you really go the EV route? What you need to know about ownership of electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore (Updated July 2018)
Why would you want to own an electric vehicle (EV) in Singapore?
EVs are very far from mainstream now, but the technology within them has improved tremendously in the past five years. With the launch of more affordably-priced EVs, like the Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Renault Zoe, we’ve reached another signpost on the road towards electrification.
As you can see from the data above, privately-owned EVs are very rare in Singapore, but the many benefits of going electric are getting too significant to be ignored, it’s only a matter of time before EVs become popular here. In other countries, they already have.
“…while you may not actually be considering an EV right now, we guarantee that will change in the next five years, so you’ll be prepared for the electric revolution.”
In 2013, there were 134,000 EVs/plug-in hybrids sold globally. Since then, that number has grown by almost 50 percent every year, with 2017 seeing 1,281,000 sold globally, with a forecast for 1,900,000 in 2018, according to EV sales database consultancy, EV-volumes.com
So we’ve put together a CarBuyer guide to EVs in Singapore. And while you may not actually be considering one right now, we guarantee that will change in the next five years, so you’ll be prepared for the electric revolution.
This guide is split up into segments:
– By our calculations, it’s because an EV can cost up to six times less, per km, than a conventional petrol car.
– EVs can be less costly to maintain than gasoline or diesel cars.
– With a range of at least 200km, modern EVs have more than enough range for most people.
– EVs are fun to drive thanks to the instant torque of their electric motors.
– EVs emit nothing from the tailpipe, and help reduce urban air pollution.
Electric vehicles can cost six times less to run than a petrol car, per kilometre.
– EVs have only just become more affordable, but they’re still not as cheap as a mainstream gasoline car.
– You’ll need your own charging station, typically this means a landed property or one with a private parking space.
– The current public network for EV charging in Singapore is still very small and under-developed.
– EVs are only as clean as the power used to charge them.
– EVs are still not suitable for drivers who need to cover more than 200km a day.
BMW i3 REX $183,999 with COE (June 2018 price, July 2018 POA, facelift model expected soon) Read our review here
There are now a few choices for Singaporeans wanting to buy a privately-owned, passenger EV.
The Renault Zoe at $129,999 with COE is the least expensive (though it doesn’t include a charge box in the price), next is the Hyundai Ioniq Electric at $138,888 with COE is the least expensive, then the BMW i3 at $183,999 with COE. From there it’s quite a big jump: Teslas, imported by Hong Seh Motors, begin from $428,300 with COE for the least expensive P 85 D model.
In other words, while even the least expensive EV is still quite spendy – compared to say a Kia Cerato K3 at $80k with COE – at least they are now reaching a much more mainstream level of affordability.
And if you don’t have to have an ‘S’ license plate, Renault also has the Kangoo ZE for $96,800 with COE, on a commercial vehicle COE.
EV Ranges compared
BMW i3 – 200km
Hyundai Ioniq Electric – 234km
Hyundai Kona Electric Long Range – 480km
BMW i3 REX – 330km
Renault Zoe – 367km
Tesla Model S 85 D – 435km
The earliest EVs CarBuyer tested here were enough to give any driver range anxiety, range panic, and range generalised depression disorder. As you’ll read in our First Drives that follow, EVs now have dependable, real-life range of around 200km at the least.
Charging an EV can be done at home (with a wallbox, see below). The biggest challenge to EV ownership is if you don’t have a landed home, or access to a private charger, which honestly is the case for most of us Singaporeans.
Currently for Singapore, the network of public EV chargers is quite small. BMW and Hyundai allow charging at their own showroom premises, though that is only a single location.
“The biggest challenge to EV ownership is if you don’t have a landed home, or access to a private charger…”
The provider for public charging is Greenlots (www.greenlots.com), where anyone can register for an account and a RFID card. At Greenlots stations you tap the card, charge the car, and pay by hour, from $1.50 to $2.00 per station.
While it has an established network of chargers across Singapore – 50 stations at 34 locations – only eight of the public stations have the latest Type 2 charge socket. Type 2 is the new European standard for EV charging and it’s the standard expected to be widely adopted in Singapore.
Greenlots has also installed charging stations at a small number of condominiums – with MCST approval – with Type 2 chargers, and it looks set to increase in future, so EV ownership could be a definite possibility to those who stay in condominiums in the near future.
Update July 2018: Singapore Power has announced its own plans to begin an EV charging network in Singapore. with 500 planned charge points around the island. Its new DC and AC fast charge stations are open to the public and accessed via the SP app.
How To Charge
Plug it in – how hard can it be?
Technically you can plug your electric car into a wall socket, but first of all it needs a safety-approved charge cable (not all of them are) or else there is a risk of fire. There has been more than one case of e-bikes catching fire while charging, and lithium battery fires are no joke either.
Also, a wall socket cannot provide enough current (amperage) to charge an EV safely and quickly.
The best way to charge an EV is with a wallbox. These are charging units specially-installed by the dealer at the owner’s place of choice, and (Renault Zoe excepted) included in the purchase price of the car. It’s simple enough: Open the charge port on the car, put in the charger head, and voila. Wallboxes are complex pieces of equipment and much safer than wall sockets, so they will automatically shut-off when the battery is topped up.
How Long Does Charging Take?
Again this is something that differs depending on what equipment you have – just like Fast Charging for smartphones, different chargers deliver different performance.
Simply put, electrical power is measured in watts, for example, an air conditioner uses 1000 watts per hour, that is one kilowatt hour (power used over time). Watts is obtained by volts (electrical potential) times amperage (electrical current flow).
There are currently no public fast-charging stations in Singapore yet. They can charge an EV to 80 percent full in half an hour or less.
Chargers with a higher voltage rating, or ampere rating, will charge a car more quickly. To use the smartphone example again, that’s why a 2.4A charger tops up your iPhone more quickly than a 1.2A one, while USB standard voltage of 5V remains the same.
Faster charging is obtainable through standard-issue wallboxes, most of them deliver a charge rated at 7.0kW or more. The amount of charge also depends on the place the box is installed in. An old residence may be unable to handle higher loads, while an industrial building will be able to deliver the fastest three-phase or even DC fast-charging.
But generally speaking, home wallbox chargers in Singapore will usually be able to charge modern electric cars in three to four hours. For instance, BMW claims the i3 can be charged in less than three hours, with a 7.4kW power supply. If your home has three-phase power (talk to your electrician) then a faster charger can be installed.
Help! I’ve run out of juice…
It’s quite unlikely – in our experience, the current crop of EVs are very truthful about range indicated on their trip computers, so a little planning should ensure you’re never stranded. But if something happens, there’s a support system for that.
BMW has 24-hour recovery, plus an extended suite of coverage for BMW i owners under its BMW i Roadside Assistance, which covers everything from cab costs, bringing your car to the charge station, or even getting back home if you’re further afield (more than 100km away).
Hyundai has its unique vehicle-to-vehicle recovery service (above) where a rescue Ioniq Electric will charge your car with enough juice to get it to the nearest charge station. Owners can use it 10 times during their five-year vehicle warranty period. Komoco says the recovery vehicle will be on-site within an hour (it’s a 24-hour hotline service) and can charge the Ioniq Electric to 44km range in half an hour.
Owning an electric car is cheaper than a petrol-powered one. As you can see on our chart, the per-km cost is magnitudes less than a gasoline car.
But you can also look forward to saving money on maintenance.
Electric vehicle maintenance consists mostly of ensuring the electric and power systems are healthy (the onboard systems should do that already), brake pads and brake fluid are fresh, and tyres are usable. No engine means no spark plugs, no oil or air filters or similar consumables, less coolant and fluid replacements needed.
Hyundai says, “Compared to a 1.6-litre class, petrol-driven family sedan, the Ioniq Electric will save you more than $5,000 in maintenance over a 10-year, 200,000km ownership period.”
Renault also says a Zoe owner can save $1,300 on service at 30,000km (only one service is needed, compared to three for a normal car)
A key concern for EVs, as it was for hybrids, is battery longevity. For hybrids, it’s never proven to be a major issue and it looks to be the same for EVs too.
Modern power electronics are very good at keeping the batteries in peak working condition (charge levels, temperature etc), so battery packs are rated for the lifetime of the vehicle.
Tesla owners around the world, for example, have experienced good longevity with their cars. According to predictive models, the batteries can retain up to 80 percent charge after 840,000km.
Local dealers also offer longer terms for battery warranties than the standard five-year car warranty: Hyundai’s is 10 years for the battery, BMW’s is eight years, 200,000km.
However road tax is an issue for EVs – the LTA last updated its road tax formula in 2008, and unfortunately it means EVs pay more tax than normal gasoline cars per annum as seen below.
Of course we don’t often think of air pollution as a problem, but that’s something we really should change. As we’ve reported previously (‘Singapore’s air pollution level is much worse than you think’, ‘Is your car killing you slowly?’, on CarBuyer.com.sg), air pollution is an increasingly major killer of people worldwide, even in developed countries. Singapore’s own air pollution is, by some metrics, two or three times the World Health Organisation’s optimal levels.
EVs emit nothing from their tailpipes, so you can happily ‘idle’ the car and enjoy air-conditioning while waiting, knowing you’re not slowly killing everyone around you.
Singapore’s power is generated mostly by natural gas, which is far cleaner than coal. But there is also an increasing impetus toward renewables – again, part of a global trend – and in the near future we will be able to purchase electricity from clean sources from providers like Sunseap.