SINGAPORE: When restaurant waiter Xavier Lor splashed out S$1,000 on an Inokim electric scooter last week, he thought he would be able to use it for the next five to seven years.
The 39-year-old was pleased to have found an efficient mode of transport that would allow him to avoid having to squeeze in crowded buses and trains to travel to and from his work.
But his plans to use the two-wheeler for that length of time were dashed on Monday (Sep 10), when the government announced that all motorised personal mobility devices (PMDs) must conform with UL2272 fire safety standards by 2021.
"So I've spent all this money on this scooter, only to be told I have to get rid of it in two years or risk breaking the law," said Mr Lor, who uses the device to travel to and from his workplace in Clarke Quay.
Like the majority of e-scooters in the Singapore market, Mr Lor's Inokim is not compliant with UL2272 - a technical standard developed by an independent US certification company - which the Singapore government said minimises the risk of motorised PMDs catching fire.
There have been 80 fire incidents involving motorised PMDs since 2016. Data released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) earlier this year also showed that e-scooters were involved in 40 fires last year, an increase of nearly 350 per cent from nine such cases in 2016.
But Mr Lor maintains that customers like him should not be punished for purchasing e-scooters that are not compliant with UL2272, having not been informed of this new law beforehand.
"When I bought it last week, I decided to invest a bit more money because I thought it was something that I can use for the next five to seven years. But now they're telling me I have to get rid of it soon," said Mr Lor.
"I can't even sell it off in Singapore, since it won’t be legal," he said, adding that he will make a report with the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE).
Mr Chew Boon Hur, general manager for major PMD retailer Mobot, told Channel NewsAsia that "almost all" the models in Singapore are currently not compliant with UL2272.
He stressed that the time frame given by the government for customers to comply with the new standards is too short, especially for those who purchased their devices this year.
"We want to feedback to LTA to delay the implementation of the law by one more year, to 2022. This is for customers who just bought their scooters recently," said Mr Chew.
"The average lifespan of an e-scooter is three to four years, so that's enough time for the customer to use it, discard it and buy a new one by end-2021," he added.
E-scooter user Mr Timothy Gan argued that the new requirement will render almost all the models currently in the market in Singapore illegal, and is akin to "imposing a ban on PMDs without actually banning them outright”.
“Insisting that all PMDs comply with UL2272 is effectively banning them from Singapore. Almost everyone will have to throw away their e-scooters and spend even more money to buy new ones,” said the undergraduate.
Mr Victor Lee, general manager of Falcon PEV, one of the leading distributors of PMDs in Singapore, said that having a blanket rule and insisting that all e-scooters conform to UL2272 is flawed.
"We question whether this certification really makes sense at all. It’s a US certification, meant for US brands and models. If they wanted to (impose an international safety standard), they should have introduced one approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission. UL2272 was introduced in 2016 because of hoverboards; PMDs are not hoverboards," said Mr Lee.
The UL2272 standard was first published for hoverboards in the US in November 2016, but its scope has since been extended to cover all types of motorised PMDs.
PRICES COULD INCREASE BY 20 PER CENT
Additionally, Mr Lee warned that getting Falcon PEV e-scooter models to be UL2272-compliant could result in higher prices for customers.
"The cost will be levied onto customers. It's substantial - bound to be between 10 and 20 per cent," he said. "It's too premature to specify how much exactly, but the prices of all PMDs will definitely go up."
Mr Chew said that the cost of getting its e-scooters UL2272-certified will be between S$50,000 and S$100,000 per model, and will translate to higher prices for buyers.
“Consumers will expect costs to increase, possibly by up to S$100 … But we don’t know exactly how much yet,” he said.
Mr Chew added that Mobot, which previously sold 3,000 e-scooters annually, has seen a 40 per cent decline in sales since the beginning of the year due to the various regulations the government has imposed on users of PMDs, including mandatory registration, speed limits and illegal modifications.
But he maintained that business will likely pick up over the next few years and that the PMD scene in Singapore is “moving in the right direction”.
“By setting rules and regulations, you are making this industry to be the norm. In other words, people already know this is going to be the way forward for Singapore to use e-scooters as the mode of transport,” he added.
However, Falcon PEV's Mr Lee does not share the same view. He stressed that the regulations have already triggered a steady drop in sales, and there will be a further decline in the coming years as there is a “cloud of uncertainty” over whether PMDs are considered a part of Singapore’s future transport scene.
“No one is willing to guarantee anything. Last week, the government announced that all PMDs cannot travel more than 10km per hour on footpaths. This week they announced fire safety standards. What’s coming next week?”
He added that the UL2272 fire safety standard could result in PMD firms “packing up” from the Singapore market, as many may not be able to find the right supplier.
“There are too many regulations and restrictions and boundaries. To turn something so viable for a car-lite society into something that is so complicated is a huge waste,” he said.