MOT may review 2040 target for all vehicles in Singapore to be low emission: Ong Ye Kung

MOT may review 2040 target for all vehicles in Singapore to be low emission: Ong Ye Kung

The Ministry of Transport (MOT) is considering a review to bring forward its 2040 target for all vehicles in Singapore to be low emission vehicles, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Dec 11). Gwyneth Teo speaks to Mr Ong in this exclusive.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Transport (MOT) is considering a review to bring forward its 2040 target for all vehicles in Singapore to be low emission vehicles, said Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung on Friday (Dec 11).

Several factors need to be considered, including increasing the capacity of the charging infrastructure, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said in his Budget speech in February that the Government's vision is to phase out internal combustion engine vehicles and have all vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040.

READ: Budget 2020: Additional incentives to encourage use of more environmentally friendly vehicles

The Government will introduce the electric vehicle Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI), where those who buy fully electric cars and taxis will receive a rebate of up to 45 per cent on the Addition Registration Fee, said Mr Heng in February. Such a rebate is capped at S$20,000.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the initiative will run from Jan 1, 2021 to Jan 31, 2023 and will cost the Government about S$71 million over the next three years.

BUILDING UP CHARGING POINTS INFRASTRUCTURE

When asked if Singapore is bringing forward its 2040 goal, Mr Ong said on Friday it was "something to be reviewed".

He added that Singapore could also be "more ambitious" about its target of building up 28,000 charging points by 2030.

In a written answer to Parliament in October, Mr Ong said 28,000 public charging points would amount to a ratio of eight cars per charging point, which is “not ideal”. 

He told CNA on Friday that the country should be working toward a minimum ratio of five cars to one charging point.

“You look at the typical battery size and the range that the battery can carry you, and then the average mileage in Singapore, you probably need a full charge, on average, once every five days,” Mr Ong said. 

READ: 28,000 charging stations for electric cars is possible - but where? Industry players weigh in

“Not every estate, not every town, not every development has charging points, and sometimes people may hog a charging point longer than they should ... so it may even work down to four (vehicles) to one (charging point), three to one. I think these are issues we need to review."

He said the slow take up of electric vehicles is not unexpected, adding that Singapore needs to "build up" its network of charging points.

“To get it off the ground, it’s easier to start with overnight charging, slower charging – lower voltage or lower power rating. You only need 3.57 kilowatts, you can start, and many places have enough capacity to support it,” said Mr Ong.

“As we get off the ground, more electric vehicles come into the market, then you will attract investments to build up the infrastructure for fast charging. 

"I will do it in that sequence, but in the end, there will be a place for both fast and slow charging.”

Mr Ong added that private sector players are vital to and “at the core” of Singapore's electrification plans by helping, among other things, to build the charging infrastructure.

READ: More rebates for cleaner vehicles, higher surcharges for more pollutive models from 2021

"It should not be a government-initiated, and led, and driven initiative," said the minister.

"We should set in place the parameters such that private sector players will come in and find the incentive to build up their infrastructure."

Besides having the right policies to "ride the technology", Singapore being an "urban, dense city" makes it well placed to embrace electric vehicles.

COVID-19 IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHAPE PUBLIC TRANSPORT RIDERSHIP

Public transport ridership has fallen to about 70 per cent of pre COVID-19 levels as more people work from home during the pandemic. 

Mr Ong said there will likely be a permanent shift in travel patterns post-pandemic, adding that he sees this as an opportunity to "shape" commuting patterns.

READ: Incentives likely to encourage electric vehicle adoption in Singapore, but questions remain, say analysts

“The fact that the volume dropped is not a good thing, but how it is spread out now, away from peak hours, is a good thing,” said Mr Ong. 

He added that commuter volume during off-peak hours has risen to 60 per cent from 50 per cent previously, which means less of a "crush" during peak hour travel.

“I think as the economy recovers … instead of work from home being the default, the future default may be a mixture, for office workers at least,” said Mr Ong, adding that office workers comprise about 30 per cent of the country's commuter traffic. 

“I don't think we'll go back, revert to 100 per cent commuter traffic volume ... because more people will work from home, but maybe we can revert back to 85 per cent, and 65 per cent of them travel outside of peak hours.

"That is a tremendous productivity improvement."

READ: Commentary: Electric vehicles will take over Singapore. But here’s what must happen first

This means there will be no need "over provide" for capacity during peak hours, and to have underutilisation of public transport during off-peak hours, said Mr Ong.

He added that he is keen to work with the Manpower Ministry and other ministries to see how this can materialise.

When asked if there would be increased subsidies for public transport operators amid COVID-19, Mr Ong said it was an "exceptional year" because of the pandemic. 

There is "no point" having a system where it is cheap to take public transport but with service levels so high that it costs "billions and billions of dollars of taxpayers' money".

Calling it a "big equation" that needs to be solved, the minister said it was important for the system to be affordable for commuters to use.

"How to solve this conundrum? Three things I mentioned. Good enough service level and reliability, affordable to the commuter, yet as a system, we can sustain and maintain. 

"I think it must first come from operators running the system productively, efficiently, reliably. And this is a big opportunity for them to raise their game by reshaping commuter traffic patterns."

There could also be fare adjustments and the Government will continue providing the necessary operating subsidies, he added.

READ: Incentives likely to encourage electric vehicle adoption in Singapore, but questions remain, say analysts

AVIATION IN A "DEEP CRISIS" AMID COVID-19

The aviation and tourism sectors have been hit hard amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with countries and regions closing their borders.

Aviation is "still in a deep crisis", said Mr Ong.

"We are still struggling. It will go deep into next year, maybe even beyond,” the minister added. 

"It’s affected everywhere, every airline, every airport in the world.”

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Source: CNA/ic

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