A Dummies’ Guide To Owning An Electric Vehicle In Singapore

All you need to know about ownership of electric vehicles (EVs) in Singapore in 2020


Updated: April 2020, October 2019. Story First published: 2018 

This guide is split up into segments, click the links below to jump straight to that section: 

Background/Why Own An EV?
EV Pros and Cons 
The Best & Worst EVs in Singapore
Comparative range of EVs here 
Where To Charge /How to charge 
Cost of Ownership 

Background and why choose an EV?

Why would you want to own an electric vehicle (EV) in Singapore?

EVs are very far not as far from mainstream now, but the technology in them has improved tremendously in the past five years.

BMW’s i3 was the first passenger EV to launch in Singapore, back in 2014, and it set the trend for expensive, luxury EVs (like the Jaguar I-Pace) that set the tone – if you want to save the world, you’d better have the cash.

However from 2018 on, the launch of more affordably-priced EVs, we’ve reached another signpost on the road towards electrification and it’s looking increasingly likely that EV ownership can expand beyond its current, tiny numbers even in Singapore.

EV ownership is not without complications, though – in early 2020 the government announced additional benefits for EVs and hybrids, but CarBuyer.com.sg has analysed the situation so far and here’s why we think it won’t actually help boost EV adoption.

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 even if you may not actually be considering one right now, we guarantee the landscape will change in the next few years, so you’ll be prepared for the electric revolution.

EV Pros and Cons

EV: Pros 

–  By our calculations, an EV can cost up to six times less to run, per km, than a conventional petrol car in terms of fuel cost alone

– EVs can be less costly to maintain than gasoline or diesel cars since they have fewer systems that require maintenance (no intake filter, no oil changes etc).

– With a range of at least 200km, modern EVs have more than enough range for the average Singaporean driver. 

– EVs are fun to drive thanks to the instant torque of their electric motors.

– EVs emit nothing from the tailpipe, and help reduce local air pollution.

Our EV vs Petrol chart from 2018 – old but still relevant unless petrol prices go insanely cheap

EV: Cons
EVs have only just become more affordable, but they’re still expensive, compared to a mainstream gasoline car.

– You’ll need your own charging station, typically this means a landed property or at the very least, a private parking space.

– The current public network for EV charging in Singapore is expanding, but still not widespread enough.

– 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 300km a day.

The Best & Worst EVs in Singapore

Compared to 2016, or even 2018, there are now quite a few choices for Singaporeans wanting to buy a privately-owned, passenger EV, so much so that making a choice can be difficult. Luckily, CarBuyer.com.sg has driven almost all of the EVs on sale here, and we’ve rated the best – and worst – of them in our Best Of Story below. 

Guide: The Best and Worst EVs in Singapore

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 can see, EVs now have dependable, real-life range of around 200km at the least.

Where To Charge

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, though it has expanded greatly in recent times. BMW and Hyundai allow charging at their own showroom premises.

“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 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.

As of July 2018, Singapore Power has its own 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. The app is quite useful – you can monitor the charges and amount of charging done in real time. 

In the Budget 2020 announcement, the government said it will introduce 28,000 charging stations by 2030 – which is very good news. But questions remain on where these charge points will be, and if there are no charge points in say, HDB carparks where most Singaporean drivers could charge ‘at home’, then that would be a major shortcoming.

How To Charge An EV

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. It’s common for e-bikes to catch fire while charging, and lithium battery fires are no joke either.

Also, not all wall sockets 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).

Fast chargers – such as this one from SP Group – 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, though larger, more expensive and more powerful EVs will have larger capacity batteries and take longer.

For instance, BMW claims the i3 can be charged in less than three hours, with a 7.4kW power supply, while a Tesla Model X takes around five hours.  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.

Cost Of EV Ownership

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. Reassuringly hybrid cars have shown that there are no major issues with battery packs and their lifespan – 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. 

Road Tax 
One major issue with the cost of EV ownership here is Road Tax.  

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 – quite an eye opener to see that a Tesla pays more road tax than a Ferrari. 

UPDATE 2020: This will change with the new Road Tax scheme for EVs and hybrids (see our story the Budget 2020 EV rebates), but it’s also offset by lump-sum road tax payments.

Rates valud as of 2018

Are EVs really the way forward?

air pollution

Singaporeans don’t often think of air pollution as a problem until the haze appears, 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.

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.