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UN body on Tesla: Singapore likely to be only nation factoring carbon emission from grid for EVs

That said, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) appears to have applied the R101 standard correctly, says the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.

SINGAPORE: The Land Transport Authority (LTA) appears to have applied the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) R101 correctly when assessing the carbon emission of a used Tesla Model S recently, said Mr Jean Rodriguez, Chief of the Information Unit at UNECE. 

However, LTA also appears to be the only national regulator to have included power grid emission into the evaluation of electric vehicles’ (EVs) carbon footprint, he added.

In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Mr Rodriguez said in an email that R101 only specifies the way to measure the energy consumption of the vehicle, or “tank-to-wheel”.

The LTA had stated that the electric energy consumption of the imported used Tesla car was 444Wh/km. In a statement on Thursday, LTA confirmed that if the car was brand new, it would have enjoyed a rebate with the energy consumption rating of 181Wh/km.


However, Mr Joe Nguyen, the owner of the Tesla Model S in Singapore, had to pay a S$15,000 tax for having a non-fuel-efficient car instead.

Mr Nguyen had earlier questioned if LTA had applied R101 correctly. He said that R101 has nothing to do with CO2 emissions, and was why European countries “do not penalise EVs for CO2 as Singapore does”. 

“CO2 testing is only for vehicles that actually emit gases; EVs have no engine and no tailpipe. Even trying to conduct an emissions test is a pure waste of time and money,” he said in an email. 

As for the 0.5g CO2/Wh grid emission factor applied by the regulator, Mr Rodriguez said this refers to “well-to-wheel” and the rate depends on the means of electricity generation: “As far as we can read in follow-up stories, electricity in Singapore seems to be mostly generated by gas-powered plants, hence this rate looks to be within the range of accepted estimates.”

LTA had earlier clarified that the grid emission factor was to account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process, even if there are no tail-pipe emissions.


Mr Nguyen, an IT executive, had argued that this rationale from LTA appeared to be “logical at first”. However, when the regulator told him to declare that he will only charge his car at home and not at a public charging infrastructure, there appeared to be a double taxation issue at play. “I am already paying for any electrical distribution CO2 surcharge when I pay my electricity bill every month,” he said. “You would not charge someone CO2 emissions for owning an iPhone that they charge at home, would you?”

"LOGICAL"TO APPLY TO ALL VEHICLES

Mr Rodriguez said Singapore appears to be the only national regulator to have included power grid emission into its evaluation process. “We are not aware that this is currently applied in other countries,” he said, adding that such criterion is up to the national authorities to decide.

He did note that Singapore is not one of the contracting parties to the 1958 Agreement ratifying the harmonisation of vehicle regulations. Of the 62 countries, only six are from Asia Pacific: Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. “Various countries in the world use our UN regulations as reference in national legislation,” he said.


The UNECE executive added that since Singapore has applied grid emission in its evaluation process, “it would seem logical to use this approach across the board for all vehicles”.

The carbon dioxide emitted from transforming oil into petrol or gasoline is limited, said Mr Rodriguez, and is estimated at approximately 10 per cent of the CO2 generated by the engine when the car runs. 

MORE TRANSPARENCY NEEDED: TESLA OWNER

Mr Nguyen said he did not take issue with UNECE standard LTA had adopted, but the lack of transparency on both its application and method of testing EVs.

“There is no documentation to be found on the process for electric vehicles. The UNECE Regulation is not mentioned and how it is applied. The correlation chart between power consumption and CO2 is not published anywhere. The equipment VICOM (which tested the Tesla) uses to measure is not documented anywhere. There is little to no transparency,” the IT executive said.

Tesla founder Elon Musk said that he had contacted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after Channel NewsAsia first reported on LTA’s clarification regarding how EVs are evaluated. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office had also confirmed that the conversation took place and that various agencies were looking into the matter, while the LTA on Thursday also confirmed that it and the VICOM Emission Test Laboratory are working with Tesla engineers to look further into this case.


In response to queries from Channel NewsAsia, Tesla confirmed that it was having "cooperative discussions with the LTA to ensure a proper understanding of these issues and to make sure that they are correctly testing our customer’s Model S".

"Based on the positive nature of those discussions, we are confident that this situation will be resolved soon," they added. 

Mr Musk’s Tesla factory had been one of the places Mr Lee visited in his trip to the United States’ Silicon Valley in February, sparking hopes that the carmaker would return to these shores. The company had pulled out from Singapore in 2011, six months into its entry, due to poor sales and not getting the tax breaks it was hoping to for. It currently has stores in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and China, according to its website.

In the Tesla Model S

TAKING A RIDE: We join Tesla Motors Model S owner Joe Nguyen as he shows us around his vehicle. On Thursday, LTA said it is working with Tesla engineers to look further into the case, after Mr Nguyen had to pay a S$15,000 tax for having a non-fuel-efficient car instead. http://bit.ly/1UUEzxo

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Thursday, 10 March 2016

Mr Nguyen also called on LTA to rethink its stance towards EVs. “LTA can take this as a criticism, or it can take this as an opportunity to really think about the future of EV and/or fuel cell transport, and how it should play a leading role rather than devolving into a bureaucratic swamp. 

“They need to clearly document their standards and their processes and work with other governments to see how things are done elsewhere,” he said.