Commentary: Where are all the electric vehicle charging points?
Accessible infrastructure and incentives for drivers can push more to choose electric vehicles, says Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore’s Sanjay C Kuttan.
SINGAPORE: The need for a robust Electric Vehicle (EV) ecosystem in Singapore has become increasingly compelling.
Countries around the world have reached a landmark agreement to combat climate change and intensify actions needed for a sustainable low carbon future at the 2015 World Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.
There is also a ubiquitous acceptance of the United Nations’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, one of which states the aspiration for affordable and clean energy to become more common in attaining greater sustainability.
MOMENTUM IN SINGAPORE THROUGH THE YEARS
The discussion on the deployment and proliferation of electric vehicles in Singapore dates back to 2009 when the Government set up a task force comprising eight government agencies to study the adoption of EVs.
In 2016, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament in 2016 that the proposal for an electric car-sharing programme was underway, giving EVs a much-needed push.
By early 2018, as part of the Nationwide ElV Car-Sharing Programme, LTA reiterated Singapore’s commitment to greater adoption of EVs in its continued move towards a greener and more sustainable urban transport system.
BlueSG, the first large-scale EV car-sharing service in Singapore, has seen high membership and rental figures, with more than 3,300 registered members and 5,000 rentals, and has announced ambitious plans of a 1,000-strong electric vehicle fleet and 2,000 charging points by 2020.
WELL-PLANNED CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE KEY TO EV SUCCESS
Having a comprehensive and reliable charging infrastructure is a linchpin in driving the adoption of success of more EVs on Singapore roads.
Recent encouraging developments include the announcement by SP Group of plans to speed up the installation of EV charging points. It plans to roll out 1,000 charging points by 2020, doubling its original target that was set in June the same year. Thirty eight were installed in January alone.
But in figuring out the next steps, we need to ask: How do we ensure a smart and cost-effective approach?
A scientific approach to distribute charging points across Singapore should map charging infrastructure to travel patterns. The proximity between charging points should ensure accessibility and reduce range anxiety while avoiding unproductive clustering.
READ: Fear of running out of power key reason drivers are skeptical about electric vehicles, a commentary
Developers must also be enlisted in this effort to work towards planning future-ready buildings and be incentivised to allocate space and supporting infrastructure. The availability and accessibility of carparks outfitted with charging points is one chief case in point.
Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority’s Green Mark scheme that encourage building owners to adopt environmentally sustainable practices can be extended by awarding more points to those who allocate carparks in buildings with such infrastructure.
Building and construction codes should also provide for standards and guidelines for electrical systems to cater to electric vehicles, so as to reduce retrofitting and incremental investments in EV infrastructure costs.
Another area that deserves closer attention is the need to facilitate the interoperability of charging access cards – for instance, using one card across different EV operators. Standard inter-operator stored-valued cards, like those used in the public transportation systems should be considered.
Such a solution will also generate benefits like the ability to capture data, understand trends and the impact of transport-related policies while generating inputs for new policies and business models.
In the development of a holistic EV charging infrastructure system, there is also a need to create a harmonised approach for EV drivers to locate EV-friendly carpark lots and the use of standardised, easily recognisable EV plates, to ensure compliance to carpark usage and for first responders in cases of emergencies to identify quickly which emergency response protocol to employ.
CONSIDER INCENTIVES TO PUSH MORE EV USE
As the building sector aims to achieve a lower energy footprint, the proliferation of EVs and the need for charging infrastructure within their premise can be counter-productive to such goals.
But rolling out EVs can help realise multiple benefits across the transport and building sectors in creating a more sustainable Singapore.
This can be done by leveraging technology that monitors the energy consumed and usage status of EV charging points and factor these into the computation of the energy footprint of the building.
The building gross floor area can also be increased as an incentive for charging stations and compensate the increase in energy usage.
To better control the growth of EVs and manage the deployment of infrastructure ahead of the demand curve, it would be pragmatic for policymakers to consider a separate Certificate of Entitlement (COE) category for EVs within the current policy allocation.
This can drive Singapore’s decarbonisation transformation and help the country make a stronger push towards cleaner vehicles while still maintaining the objective of zero-car growth.
The desired outcome would be the reduced deployment of less efficient, high-emission vehicles through a lower COE allocation.
Finally, as we aspire to become a Smart Nation through smart technology, we must also inculcate smart people with smart attitudes. In this instance, EV owners should not occupy lots with charging points when not charging their vehicles as this diminishes their utilisation and compromises the effort around smart planning.
Singapore is still in the early days in terms of thinking and implementing a comprehensive EV charging infrastructure.
There is strong belief within the energy community that taking a smarter approach at the onset will achieve greater efficiencies and productivities in the longer term.
To ensure these benefits are enjoyed, everyone need to start thinking and collaborating in a systematic manner. This needs to start now.
Dr Sanjay C Kuttan is Chairman at the Sustainable Infrastructure Committee at Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore.