SP Group to install 500 EV charging points in Singapore



Tempted by a Tesla? Fed up with fossil fuels? Within two years you’ll have access to 500 charging points for EVs. Some will top up your car in the time it takes you to grab a coffee.

SINGAPORE — ”Someone has to take the lead,” said Wong Kim Yin, the chief executive officer of SP Group. With that, he rolled up his sleeves and set to work building 500 public charging points for Electric Vehicles (EVs).

Ok, it didn’t quite happen that way, but SP Group did announce today that the nation’s power grid operator will set up the biggest EV charging network in Singapore.

Here’s everything you need to know about where you’ll be charging your electric car when you finally make that switch to battery power.

Electric cars? So inconvenient!
Hang on, that’s exactly the point here. SP Group, which operates Singapore’s electricity grid, is going to build its own public network. Anyone can use it.

Will there be enough charging points or not?
The first 30 will be up and running by the end of this year. Eventually there will be 500 around the island — shopping malls, business parks, industrial sites, residential areas and so on are all going to get them.

Wah! What if I want one near my flat?
Tell SP Group. The company is actively asking for suggestions for charging sites. Just email emobility@spgroup.com.sg. And tell them CarBuyer sent you.

Cool. Will I get free parking when I charge my EV?
Most likely, no. Parking is parking, charging is charging. You’ll likely have to pay for both, says Goh Chee Kiong, the head of strategic development at SP Group (pictured below). But if, say, a shopping mall operator wants to woo EV drivers it could theoretically offer free parking. You never know.

OK, then how much will charging cost me?
Don’t know yet. SP Group says this is still being worked out and will be announced closer to the launch of the new network. It will probably cost more than home charging, though. Someone has to recover the cost of building the network. Also, it will depend on whether you use AC or DC charging.

Huh? Why got AC/DC? What do EVs use?
Both. AC (for Alternating Current) is slower while DC (Direct Current) charging is faster. SP Group’s network will have more than 100 of these fast 50 kilowatt-hour DC chargers while the rest will be 22kWh AC chargers.

How fast is “fast”?
Well, the Hyundai Ioniq Electric (pictured below) has a 28kWh battery pack so in theory the DC charger would top up one up in around half an hour. Same for the latest BMW i3, which has 27kWh of usable capacity.

If you have a bigger EV like the Jaguar I-Pace and its 90kWh battery, then a full charge would take three times as long. But no one charges up an EV from 0 percent. Do you wait until your tank is totally empty before stopping for petrol?

True. But will it be worthwhile to have an EV or will some greedy profiteer hold me ransom?
Mr Goh says an EV costs less than half what a petrol-powered car costs to operate for a given mileage. It’s usually 65 percent cheaper to maintain too, because EVs have so few moving parts.

Aha, but are they really that clean? Where does the power come from?
Most of Singapore’s electricity is from natural gas, which is the cleanest fossil fuel around. True, no vehicle is truly zero-emissions, but SP Power reckons that switching to an EV would allow you to halve your carbon emissions from driving. It’ll be quieter, too. So, good for everyone.

I see. And when you say “everyone”, you really mean everyone?
Yup. Some charging networks are sort of membership-driven, but the SP Group network will really be open to all users. You download a mobile phone app, link up a credit card, and use that to pay. The app will help you find an available charging point, too. It will also prompt you when your car is fully charged.

Why?
So you don’t hog the charging point. There will be a grace period once your car is fully topped up, but if you linger beyond that you’ll have to pay for the privilege. “We believe it’s only fair if there’s a fee levied,” says Mr Goh. “We don’t want EV drivers to leave their car there for 24 hours.”

Sounds like they’ve really done their homework.
They have. In fact, SP Power has run an EV fleet of its own for a couple of years. “A few years ago, we embarked on converting our fleet of service vehicles into EVs,” says Mr Wong. “Through that experience we have gained the confidence that this mode of transportation is cheaper, cleaner and sustainable in every sense.”

It has around 30 EVs now and will eventually have up to 300 of them. The company’s in-house app is how its drivers find a charging point and keep track of how much they’ve spent for internal billing.

Will this really stimulate demand for EVs?
It can’t hurt, right? “The common grouse by many prospective EV buyers in Singapore is always, ‘Where are the charging points?’,” says Mr Goh. “We have done our homework and we believe there is a certain threshold that we need to cross in terms of being pervasive and also having higher (charging) speed.” That threshold, he says, is 500 charging points. The “high speed” part is important, too. It’s no good having to wait hours at a mall for your car to become drivable.

So, will we see a flood of new EVs come in?
That’s the idea, but existing EV sellers have reacted positively to SP Group’s move. Preeti Gupta, a BMW Asia spokesperson, calls it a “bold contribution”. She adds: “We hope more industry players will contribute to the development of the charging infrastructure in Singapore as we work together to develop a more sustainable nation and a new era of mobility solutions for everyone to enjoy.”

BMW Asia imports the electric i3 (pictured above) as well as six plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which can provide around 30km of electric range when driven by a battery: the 225Xe, 330e, 530e, 730Le and X5 xDrive40e range of iPerformance vehicles, along with the gorgeous i8 eco coupe.

Renault importer Wearnes, which retails the Renault Zoe, a compact EV, is similarly positive. “This is extremely promising for the EV scene in Singapore, and could be a catalyst for widespread adoption of the quiet, environmentally friendly technology here,” says Kevin Teng, the managing director for Wearnes (Renault).

And further afield?
Well, Teslas are being parallel imported (we hear the Model S has just been given approval for sale by the Land Transport Authority), Jaguar will launch the I-Pace electric Sport Utility Vehicle (above) by November, and Mercedes has two plug-in hybrids coming here by August, the C350 e and E 350 e, with a full EV due within two years (pictured below). So, plenty of choice.

Wow, sounds like this is really happening.
It does. EV adoption is considered a classic chicken-and-egg problem, but it’s also one that can be seen as a situation in which it takes two hands to clap. The car dealers have held out one for years, and SP Group is holding out the other. And it has 500 fingers.

 

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.