Privately-owned Electric Cars Will Be A Rarity Here…

…and it’s our own fault. Study shows that Singaporean car buyers are the least interested in ASEAN to own or buy an EV



It probably comes as no surprise, but Singaporeans are the least enthusiastic about electric vehicle (EV) ownership in the region.

In a Nissan-commissioned study by Frost & Sullivan in six ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam), results showed that only 23 percent of Singaporean respondents would consider an EV for their next purchase, far behind the average of 37 percent of consumers. In comparison, the next lowest was Vietnam at 33 percent, and the highest was the Philippines at 46 percent.

A large part of this is due to a lack of incentives for the adoption of EVs here. Indeed, the findings also revealed that government incentives are a key motivator for Singaporean customers, the only group to have this factor in their top three, which comes as little surprise given our highly-taxed, ultra-competitive car market.

“Inherently, the cost of EVs Is significantly higher than conventional cars so unless the government bridges the gap and makes the price go down, it will be very hard for EVs to succeed”, said Vivek Vaidya, SVP of mobility at Frost & Sullivan. “We don’t have any example in the world where EVs were launched and successful without any special treatment.”

EVs in Singapore are the only passenger vehicles eligible for the full $20,000 rebate under the Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES), but that may not be enough, as in addition to the higher purchase price, EVs also incur a higher annual road tax.

For example, the recently launched Hyundai Ioniq EV currently retails for just under $150,000 with COE, $16,000 more than the Ioniq Hybrid, and at least $50,000 more than the petrol-powered Elantra 1.6-litre sedan. An owner would also have to pay $1,082 in annual road tax for the Ioniq EV, almost 50 percent greater than a car with a 1.6-litre engine.

The bulk of savings for EVs then, will come from the lower running costs associated with charging as opposed to fuelling, as well as simpler mechanical maintenance. A higher road tax cost diminishes this advantage.

It’s because of this that the early adoption of EVs here will be from fleets, said Goh Chee Kiong, head of strategic development at SP Group. “Singapore is paying attention to fleets first, including taxi, private hire vehicle, car sharing and logistics companies, as the higher mileages they clock will dramatically shorten the payback period of the extra purchase cost.”

This continues the trend of electric cars struggling to gain a foothold in Singapore; according to the Land Transport Authority, of 91,775 new car registrations last year, only 383 of them were EVs or plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs are capable of short electric-only trips before a petrol engine kicks in for longer distances). That said, that proportion should increase as more EV models get launched here.

The results, and more, were announced at Nissan Futures, a forum discussing the future of EVs in Southeast Asia, held in Singapore on February 6 to 7 2018. The Japanese automaker also announced plans to launch the second-generation of its Leaf electric hatchback in seven Asia-Oceania markets (Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Korea and Thailand) this year.

So where does that leave eco-conscious car buyers in Singapore? Electrification will become increasingly common but it won’t totally displace fossil fuel-burning engines, meaning we’ll be entering a hybrid age long before a fully electric one.

“So far I cannot see a timeline where the internal combustion engine (ICE) will disappear,” said Kazuhiro Doi (above), vice president, Global Director (Research & Advanced Engineering) for the Nissan Alliance. “For the time being, the majority of the powertrains are still ICE, so of course we cannot stop its development. We will face more and more severe regulations for emissions, so finding solutions to pass those regulations is the key. But without having ICEs, we cannot survive for the time being”, he added.

What this means is that anyone reading this article in 2018 will more than likely still be able to buy a new car with an ICE within their lifetimes, just that they will probably be supporting an electric motor in a hybrid application.

So although car companies’ grandiose plans and news  such as cities banning conventionally-powered cars grab the headlines, the reality is that unless we, and the powers that be, strive towards a cleaner model of private mobility, the cars of our future won’t differ so much from our cars of today.

about the author

Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.