By Maria Almenoar
ELECTRIC cars will start plying Singapore roads from September next year, as part of a three-year study to test the infrastructure needed to keep them running here.
Japanese car maker Mitsubishi is bringing in up to 50 i-MiEV models for use in the $20 million study, and more cars from Renault-Nissan are expected in 2011.
The Energy Market Authority (EMA) and the Land Transport Authority will also call for tenders from companies interested in building charging stations for these vehicles.
Singapore can reduce up to 4 per cent of its land transport sector's carbon emissions by 2020 if just 2 per cent of the vehicles here were electric-powered, said EMA. That would mean a total of 16,000 full-electric cars here.
Said EMA's deputy chief executive David Tan yesterday at the Plug-In Singapore conference: 'Singapore is an ideal location for such a test-bed with its size, compact urban environment, robust power grid and infocomm technology infrastructure.'
Mitsubishi will sell its electric cars to any company willing to take part in the study for between $80,000 and $90,000, lower than the $160,000 estimated retail price.
Participants will need to collect data on the mileage clocked and the frequency and ease of plugging in and recharging, among other things.
High upfront costs of owning an electric car have hobbled its sale elsewhere. Mitsubishi's make, at $160,000, is about $100,000 more expensive than the petrol-run version.
Inconvenient access to a charging station is another factor.
The EMA is working with the Housing Board and town councils on building charging stations to serve HDB residents and taxi drivers.
Private home owners can buy their own charging device which costs about US$200 (S$278).
The announcement made at the conference aroused much interest from delegates who were makers of electric vehicles and parts, and charging station builders from around the world, as well as academics.
The vice-president of corporate development for United States-based ECOtality, Mr Colin Read, said his company was considering putting in a tender bid to build charging stations.
His company is working on technology that allows electric vehicles to draw power from the grid, or power network that delivers electricity, during off-peak hours and to sell the power back to the grid during peak periods.
Detroit Vehicles' chief executive Albert Lam said he was willing to bring in 500 electric cars for sale here by next year and set up an educational store to explain electric vehicle technology to motorists.
'The fact is that electric vehicles are not something in the future and don't need to be tested. They are ready, they are here and they are now,' he said.
He added that Detroit Vehicles' models, which include a sedan and sports model, can cost as low as US$26,000 because he is mass producing batteries and parts to lower costs.
Batteries, which are generally the costliest part of electric vehicles, can also be leased to users to minimise upfront costs, he said.
Globally, the US is the leader in electric car use with about 10,000 electric vehicles and 750,000 hybrid-electric vehicles on the road.
EMA is considering more incentives to encourage motorists to go electric.
Currently, owners of hybrid, compressed natural gas and electric cars get a 40 per cent cut in the Additional Registration Fee, which is the main car tax.
Singapore can reduce up to 4 per cent of its land transport sector's carbon emissions by 2020 if just 2 per cent of the vehicles here were electric-powered, said EMA.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.
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