Charging Ahead on the Road to Zero EmissionsBy Richard Baker
The Singapore transport sector, more than any sector, contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it’s no surprise that encouraging more people to switch to electric vehicles (EVs) is at the heart of the government's efforts to tackle climate change. Just last month, Singapore announced its ambitious targets for 2040 with a plan to phase out internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, paving the way for greater adoption of hybrids and EV’s that run on cleaner energy.
However, it is not as simple as that – the plan for these ambitious goals still lacks a few crucial pieces. Deloitte has estimated that the global EV market will reach a tipping point by 2022, when the cost of ownership of an electric vehicle will be on par with its ICE cousin. Unfortunately, it could also result in a supply gap of almost 14 million EVs in 2030, which in turn could thwart Singapore’s efforts.
It is also unclear what the zero combustible engine vehicle target will mean for hybrids, plug-in EVs and motorcycles, though the move to review the road tax for EVs and some hybrids suggest details will be forthcoming. For now, Budget 2020 has done enough to get us moving forward towards the electrification of the private and public road transport sectors, but there's still a long way to go. Let’s address key adoption concerns when it comes to EVs.
Complexities of a national charging infrastructure
In January 2020, a new Ipsos Global study revealed that consumers ranked the location and availability of charging stations as one of the biggest barriers to EV adoption. To address this, the Singapore government has also announced that it would expand the public charging infrastructure for EVs at public car parks, with a goal of deploying up to 28,000 chargers island-wide by 2030. This would be a substantial improvement from the 1,600 chargers present as of today. However, how do you decide where to install charging stations or how many to invest in?
Choosing the most strategic charging points for EVs is not a one-size-fits-all approach. In Singapore, for instance, location-based factors come into play, such as local grid constraints, EV ownership density in areas across the island, as well as driving habits of EV users.
The wide range of charging speeds, and potentially long recharge times, means EV charging infrastructure needs to fit alongside existing driving behaviours and activities. If, for example, the majority of EV drivers prefer to charge up their vehicles whilst they do their Saturday grocery shopping in a particular district, then that gives us valuable input for where to best invest in charge points.
Charge points as data goldmines
Operational data on charging – such as time of day, charge duration, the amount of power delivered and what type of connector was used – is now collected in conjunction with commercial data related to payment methods and transaction amounts. In addition, modern EVs are far more digitally enabled than traditional vehicles, constantly recording high volumes of additional spatial data during the day.
Taking into account all the different variables makes it a delicate balancing act to decide what the demands are for drivers visiting any given neighbourhood supermarket or central business district car park now – and in the future. That's where the power of geospatial data will help by highlighting unique usage patterns in specific areas and shedding light on which is the best route to take when it comes to EV infrastructure investment. Once you have a clear picture of charging use and behaviour in a particular location, you can remove a lot of the guesswork from charging infrastructure decisions.
The “overpowered” elephant in the room
While the country is in a power glut at the moment, the ban on ICE vehicles will increase the demand for electricity to outgrow the capacity of local power grids, thus forcing EV charging networks to compete with each other in infrastructure projects for electricity. Singapore also currently generates upwards of 95 per cent of its energy from natural gas. While it is the least-polluting fossil fuel and has higher efficiency compared to ICE vehicles, there will continue to be a carbon footprint generated.
On top of that is the concern over preparation works in electrifying public transport beyond just private vehicles. As we embrace these new initiatives in areas of sustainability, we must keep in mind that there are still gaps that have yet to be bridged.
Nevertheless, the Singapore Budget 2020 announcement around EVs is a courageous first step because it makes the existential crisis arising from climate change real. However, the government alone cannot address the threat of climate change; we all have to foster a climate of change in our community, where everyone makes conscious decisions to lower our carbon footprint. Let us all do our part in areas of sustainability so that we can achieve the ambitious but necessary milestones on the road to zero emissions.