Since their inception and (major) increase in mainstream popularity, electric vehicles (EVs) have been repeatedly touted by manufacturers as being “the future” or “the step in the right direction” for owning a new vehicle in Singapore.
Indeed, electric vehicles are highly regarded as visible symbols of “environmental responsibility”, and they are proudly paraded by their owners, manufacturers, and governments organisations as such too. Undeniably, these do sound very nice on paper.
So much so that recently, it was reported that in the first half of 2022, one out of every 10 vehicles purchased was an EV. However, if you’re someone who intends to switch to an electric vehicle in the not-too-distant future, should you consider making the switch now, or wait a while longer before doing so?
Charging can be either a breeze or a hindrance
Charging is likely the main concern most people have about EV ownership. There's no doubt that a full charge will cost significantly less than its petrol equivalent, and while there are companies stepping up to the plate to roll out more chargers around town, availability can still prove to be a problem especially if you are not prepared for contingencies.
In the best case scenario, you drive up to an empty charging bay, preferable in the same carpark as your intended destination, insert the fastest charging cable (usually a DC 50kW charger at the time of this article) into the charge port of your car, and go about the rest of your day.
You can then return to your vehicle once it has been topped off, and then drive off as per usual.
But alas, reality is ever so slightly different, and those who drive EVs will understand the struggle of trying to find an unoccupied charging point in the general vicinity of your end point. Typically, and this is especially true of chargers in the city, the vast majority of charging locations will either be occupied or unavailable.
This means you may have to leave your vehicle charging in another building altogether while you go about your business, which can be an inconvenience, especially if the weather is sub-par.
Also, with a wide array of charge providers in Singapore, you can’t just stick to one dedicated app for all your charging needs. You'll have to use the apps of the various suppliers in order to not limit your charging options - in fact, I’m almost certain that those who use EVs regularly will most likely have some form of app drawer on their smartphones, filled with a myriad of charging apps.
I'd also like to point out the range anxiety phenomenon. Unlike in an ICE vehicle, where you can do the traditional 'splash-and-dash' run, an EV with a low state of charge will require a potentially lengthy detour and wait as the car is recharged.
And don’t get me started as well on trying to spot a charging station in an obscured carpark. It's almost akin to a treasure hunt, where the object is question is hidden well out of site. Some charge points are located so deep in a car park, that finding the aforementioned treasure (or charging station in this case) will almost always yield an audible "ah-ha!", as though you just found that pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
But these concerns are only valid if you're looking at it from the perspective of an ICE car. With appropriate pre-planning and good knowledge of where charging stations are located (especially the fast ones), charging an EV can be incorporated into your daily schedule, without additional hassle. Some places even offer complementary free charging (I'm looking at you Ikea Tampines), so you can do your afternoon's worth of shopping and come back to a car with more charge than when you left it.
Of course, fast chargers at your destination will help you add a significant amount of additional range, and you really do not have to do very much else different, except for plugging a cable in. It's also worth keeping in mind that as charging stations continue to be installed islandwide, the EV ecosystem will be continously made ever more interconnected.
Most EVs on the market now are also rated to charge higher than 50kW, which is Singapore’s current DC charging standard. Therefore, as the chargers start to catch up, your charging time goes down too as a result.
You can silently go about your business without attracting attention
One major benefit EVs have over their internal combustion engine (ICE) counterparts is their tailpipe emissions, or lack thereof. The use of electric motors means avoiding the inevitable by-products of combustion, a benefit that is most evident in dense urban areas such as Singapore. This in turn helps cities greatly improve their air quality and reduce overall air pollution for a healthier population.
Plus, you can ‘idle’ in an EV in a carpark or loading bay without ever having to worry about potential fines or complaints, since your vehicle is both silent and emission-free.
Which also yields another benefit, as you can now drive more enthusiastically at night, without incurring the wrath of your neighbours from a loud exhaust. Being in an EV means you are more ecologically conscious, and more considerate to your neighbours, so what's not to like?
Instant hassle-free performance, but what about maintenance?
When on the move, EVs can wipe the floor of lesser ICE cars with their instantenous torque deployment.
Mechanically, EVs tend to have lower top speeds than their ICE counterparts, but in the real world, acceleration is far more critical. You can easily pull away from the lights, much to the bewilderment of the sports car driver lined up beside you. Acceleration is almost comical in EVs, and it is very handy when you want to dart into lanes or overtake other vehicles.
With fewer moving parts than your conventional automobile, electric vehicles should also be substantially cheaper to maintain in the long run, as there is, in theory anyways, less stuff that needs to be swapped out periodically, thereby saving you money.
As for the battery pack, everyone and their aunt knows that batteries will lose capacity over time, and EVs are not immune to this as well. There is definitely a slight worry here, especially if in the future EVs are being sold as second hand vehicles, and one would not be able to immediately tell the condition of the battery pack within.
Data from manufacturers abroad do offer us a glimpse into the longevity of EVs, with early signs suggesting that battery durability is far superior to what experts have previously thought. Locally though, we do not have much insight into this, as EVs have only gained in popularity in recent years.
But, thus far manufacturers have included substantial mileage warranties with the purchase of an EV, which in most cases is sufficient for someone who is looking to own an EV throughout its COE lifecycle. Plus, with improvements to battery technology over time, so too will the lifespan of these vehicles.
The overarching issue about EV adoption
Despite the advancements in EV technology, there's no escaping from the fact that society's has taken the convenience of fossil fuels for granted. This means that you'll probably have to make some slight adjustments to your lifestyle when swapping your daily for an EV.
Sure, there may be problems or issues like charging, but these are teething problems that are similar to all electronic items when they were first introduced to the market. As time goes on, things like infrastructure will definitely improve, and in turn the overall ownership experience will get better.
To me, the most important part of this EV ecosystem is graciousness among owners. Things like hogging up charging bays or unkempt wires will put others off, and the hope is that as time goes on, we will eventually eliminate these uncouth behaviours, enabling everyone to share the same system fairly. With a bigger community, we can very well start to see more EVs plowing the roads in the near future.