SINGAPORE: Ride-hailing firm Grab is set to roll out 200 electric vehicles (EVs) into Singapore's streets progressively from Friday (Jan 11).
Having purchased 200 Hyundai Kona 64 kWH electric cars, Grab will release an initial batch of 20 vehicles on Friday with the rest being introduced over the next few weeks, head of the company's car leasing service GrabRentals, Kau Yi Ming said in an interview with local media.
"With these 200 cars, we will also be one of the biggest EV fleet in Singapore, and we want to be able to take this opportunity to introduce electric vehicles to both drivers and passengers of Grab," said Mr Kau.
"We feel that it is the right time to introduce a mass market platform like this, the technology has improved to the point that it has become viable to be used on the private-hire vehicle scale," he added.
He explained that Grab would be tapping on utility provider Singapore Power's (SP) fast-charging network.
"We are working closely with SP on this, and they have introduced about 40 charging points at the end of 2018, of which about half of them are fast charging," said Mr Kau.
These fast-charging points allow the Hyundai Kona to charge 80 per cent in 30 minutes, and Mr Kau noted that this is "very significant" for ride-hailing drivers for whom time is of the essence. Slow charge requires around eight hours for the cars to be fully charged.
"What this means is that a driver only needs to spend 30 minutes of his time and he is able to charge more than enough for him to drive an entire day ... so with that charging capacity there's no more range anxiety that drivers need to face. They can just focus on delivering a really good driving experience to their passengers and also themselves," he added.
The Hyundai Kona, a sport utility vehicle, is able to travel around 400km when it is fully charged - a distance equivalent to nine times the length of Singapore.
And Mr Kau said Grab is working with SP to ensure that the charging points are located at suitable locations, such as near eateries, so that drivers can eat lunch while charging their vehicles.
He added that the electric vehicle option has attracted "hundreds" of drivers, who will attend workshops and test drives before they are able to use the cars.
To alleviate charging costs, Grab said it will also offer up to 30 per cent discount for its drivers to charge up the cars, and Mr Kau estimate's that this will help drivers save up to 70 per cent in fuel costs than when they use petrol cars.
"We feel that we are able to give our drivers our preferential rate so it helps them maintain and lower their costs," he said.
Additionally, the cost of renting a Hyundai Kona with GrabRental is S$80 a day, which Mr Kau said is comparable to renting a hybrid car.
On concerns that the company is becoming too asset heavy for a player in a sharing economy, Mr Kau said GrabRentals' approach "needs to be taken more holistically".
He said the ride-hailing space in Singapore allows Grab to use the cars more efficiently and not let them stay idle.
"For us moving into the fleet business, its about how these 500,000 - 600,000 cars in Singapore (streets) can be better shared ... so the cars are on the road more often, they do a lot more trips," he said.
"That's the sense of the sharing economy, you want to take an asset and not leave it idle for too long," Mr Kau added.
He pointed out that environmental factors were key reasons why Grab opted to purchase electric vehicles.
"We want to champion the adoption of low-carbon emission technologies that benefit our drivers, their passengers and the environment so that collectively, we contribute positively to the development of a more sustainable transport network in Singapore," he said.