Extra spark for electric car project

Extra spark for electric car project

SOMEDAY in the near future, you might be able to find an electric car in your neighbourhood car park, drive it to your destination and then park it for someone else to use.

Last weekend, the authorities said in a new sustainable Singapore blueprint that they are planning to lead an electric car project to make car-sharing more convenient and environmentally-friendly.

When asked, the Economic Development Board and Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a joint reply that they are still at the planning stage and could not provide more details.

But The Straits Times understands that the Government had, as recently as about two years ago, considered introducing 900 to 1,000 electric cars under such a scheme.

Industry players and transportation experts said that a project of this nature was long overdue, and that implementing it would help Singapore meet its goal of being a "car-lite" nation, as set out in the blueprint. The LTA has said "car sharing can help those who need to use a car for a few hours or over a weekend, and allow convenient access to it without having to own or maintain one".

Unlike conventional cars fuelled by petrol, electric cars do not have tailpipes that emit pollution.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said: "By having an electric car-sharing scheme we can kill two birds with one stone.

"People do not need to buy cars and they can use an even more environmentally-friendly way of sharing cars."

Mr Tom Lokenvitz, founder of hybrid car-sharing outfit Smove, said the Republic's relatively short driving distances and stable power supply make electric cars a good option.

But experts noted that Singapore still does not have enough charging stations for the cars, or parking spaces set aside for them. As of early July, there were just 68 charging stations and three quick charge stations for the whole island.

Most are on semi-public premises, which means access may be restricted.

When asked, the Housing Board (HDB) said it has about 300 car-sharing parking spaces at 105 HDB car parks.

It said the car parks are primarily for HDB residents, so their needs have to be met first before car-sharing spaces can be set aside. "(But) we will set aside car-sharing spaces in every town, so that residents in all towns can have this option," it said.

It is working with LTA and car-sharing operators to identify suitable locations.

Last year, the LTA and Energy Market Authority concluded the first phase of the Government's electric car test-bed, which started in 2011, and involved 89 cars.

Only cars registered by companies, institutes of higher learning and government agencies took part in the test-bed, but the new car-sharing scheme will be more widely available to the public, according to the blueprint.

Smove's Mr Lokenvitz said the authorities could encourage the use and sharing of electric cars through other means, such as by excluding electric vehicles' batteries - which are costly - from tax computations.

"That would make electric cars more cost-competitive, and the market would adapt. People who are early adopters can buy the cars, and companies can also get more of them to roll out their own electric car-sharing plans," he said.

zengkun@sph.com.sg


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